Amanda Atkinson was spending the last week of eighth grade at home, preparing to move to a new school. She had never been bullied before, so there was no reason to believe she would be harassed now—safe at home.
Then the text messages started.“[They were] saying I should kill myself and drop dead, and that everyone hated me,”
Atkinson says. “It was the last week of school. Once the messages started, I knew I had no one at school left to call a friend. I got texts and messages on Facebook from a couple of other people who were in on trying to hurt me.”Worse, the messages were from people she thought were friends. “I didn’t think anyone hated me, so I was surprised to get all these nasty messages and texts from people I had shared laughs with before,” says Atkinson, now 17. “It was like a switch flipped.”
Some of the messages were anti-Semitic, while others suggested suicide.
Then, others began to chime in on Facebook. “Why’d you stop coming to school? Too chicken to face that everyone that hates you?” and “Good thing you’re gone. Everyone’s happier now,” were just a few of the messages she received. Atkinson says she was on an emotional rollercoaster.
“I was angry that people would treat me this way especially when I did nothing to deserve it. I was also sad that people felt the need to be so cruel to me when they could have just left me alone,” she says. “But mostly, I felt vulnerable.
When you’re home, you think you’re safe and that they can’t get you in your own environment. But then you’ll be eating dinner or watching TV and bam! Someone texts you to kill yourself. If you can’t even feel safe at home, then you’ve lost and feel like there’s no hope. It hurts.”
Today, Atkinson understands the power of social media and warns others that you can open yourself to possible criticism and scrutiny with what you share online. “I see social media as a way to share as much or as little of your life as you want.
But people can only hurt you if you let them. So by letting them in or shutting them out, whether that be accepting someone as a friend or blocking someone, you hold the control.”