Hannah Smith was just a normal, fourteen year old teenage girl who her school believed 'had everything to live for.' Deemed by Lutterworth High School as a 'bright, bubbly, popular and thoughtful girl,' Hannah was just one of many teenagers that have been targeted by vicious internet trolls who post abusive, hostile messages anonymously on Ask.fm. The trolls did everything they could to destroy her emotionally, including mocking her for her weight, the death of an uncle and the propensity to self harm. As the sickening comments further escalated, people began making suggestions that she should take her own life, actually telling her to 'go and drink bleach' and 'go and get cancer.' On Friday 2nd August, Hannah was found hanged in her home and whilst significant support has been given to her family, trolls have now targeted her Facebook tribute page, one man even admitting that he thought killing herself was an act of 'cowardice.'
I can't help but vent my anger towards these trolls through my writing. I find it so disgusting that someone could tell another person to take their own life, let alone anonymously. Do these trolls even know what 'kill yourself' means? Of course, it's a term we all know, but I don't think they understand the severity of the words which they uttered towards Hannah. People can't simply think that they can use that imperative as an insult because it is not just an insult and is more than just cyber bullying. They are making someone stop their existance, a tragic and irreversible action. To me, telling another human being to die is the lowest form of hostility anyone can ever show and doesn't show humans as the evolved, intelligent species we are supposed to be. It shows us as animals. The people that bullied Hannah, the people that maliciously cyber bully worldwide are nothing but animals that simply want to hurt others.
What completely and utterly baffles me about Ask.fm is the fact that people would actually want to post such horrible comments to others. Is there a reason behind this? Are people so miserable in their own lives that they need to bring others down to their lowest point, so that they can reach their highest? If this is the case, I believe we are a broken society. If people can only get pleasure from hurting others, clearly society is raising young people in the wrong way because no-one should gain pleasure from making someone else's life a misery.
I can't quite comprehend what would be going through a trolls head when they are in the process of bullying someone. They may be purely evil people who like nothing better than to watch others fall. Maybe some of them are battling their own insecurities and feel that trolling is a coping mechanism that will help them get through this. Whatever their reason may be, it is essential that the trolls realise that their actions can only end badly and ruin the lives of so many people. Death isn't reversible. It isn't like when you have a broken arm and in a few months time, it's all better. Death is permanent.
Although I have called the trolls animals, they are human beings and as it is in our human nature to empathise with others and understand their pain, I can guarantee that some of the trolls will be absolutely disgusted with themselves for the tragedy that they have caused. However, many of the trolls that wouldn't let Hannah live in peace equally won't let her now rest in peace as they are consistently posting abuse on her remembrance page, suggesting that her killing herself was what they wanted. Showing no remorse whatsoever, they inconsiderately litter the Facebook page with vile comments, which will only further fuel other sickening trolls out there.
Everyone will have their own thoughts about Ask.fm. It has been said that young people choose to create profiles because some like the excitement of being asked questions anonymously. A few years ago, I created a profile on a similar platform called Formspring and I will admit that I found it strangely exciting to be asked a question, but to not know who my questioner was. Saying that, people would sometimes post hurtful messages- by no means on the scale to which Hannah suffered- so I quickly deleted my account to avoid any real online abuse starting. I believe that websites like Ask.fm and Formspring leave teenagers as open targets ready to be hurt by strangers that could potentially live hundreds and thousands of miles away from them and not even know what they look like.
I see Ask.fm as nothing more than an online bullying platform that must be taken down if we want to prevent any more young people being targeted like Hannah. One in three people nowadays are cyberbullied and whilst it may be difficult to stop it completely, something can be done to reduce the vulnerability of these teenagers and protect them from getting hurt. If they want to be asked questions anonymously, once upon a time we used to use an app called Social Interview on Facebook where the app asks you various questions automatically and there is no-one physically typing them or trying to hurt you. At the bottom of the article you will find a link to a petition to stop the Ask.fm website which I strongly recommend you sign.
Yes, it's a scary world out there and yes, we are all going to experience pain at some point in our lives, but young people shouldn't have to encounter such unnecessary pain and suffering that websites like Ask.fm bring.
Link to petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/jessica-laney-to-stop-the-ask-fm-website