The Death of Empathy

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Erin Nanasi is an avid underwater basket weaver, with a penchant for satire and the odd wombat reference.
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On October 10th, 15-year old Amanda Todd took her own life. Amanda, who was relentlessly bullied by her peers and stalked by an adult male online, hung herself.  Amanda posted a You Tube video and, using flash cards, told the story of her short life. From the New Yorker:

Her story is this: A few years ago, she was chatting with someone she met online, a man who flattered her. At his request, she flashed him. The man took a picture of her breasts. He then proceeded to follow Todd around the Internet for years. He asked her to put on another show for him, but she refused. So he’d find her classmates on Facebook and send them the photograph. To cope with the anxiety, Todd descended into drugs and alcohol and ill-advised flirtations and sex. Her classmates ostracized her.

We are talking about a kid who did something really stupid when she was twelve and was relentlessly bullied for three years. She made horrible decisions during those three years, because she had no idea how to handle what was happening to her.

This Saturday, I logged into Facebook, and began scrolling down, reading updates and clicking articles. Suddenly, I saw a photo, a “meme” posted by the Facebook page I Do Not Need Anger Management, You Just Need To Shut Up. I liked this page because they normally post funny and irreverent photos that make me laugh. Not this morning. This morning, they posted a side-by-side photo of Paris Hilton and a photo shopped image of Amanda Todd, pointing out the differences between the two. The text under Ms. Hilton speaks to her sex video, recorded without her knowledge, her charity work and the names she is (unbeknownst to me) called like “slut” and “whore.” No one I know has ever used either of those names to describe Paris Hilton.

Under Amanda Todd’s photo shopped image (her head has been attached to a body that is not hers), the text is quite a bit less kind. “Persuaded a 13 year old boy to cheat on his girlfriend.” In her You Tube video, Amanda admits to dating a boy who had a girlfriend, but the relationship was mutual and she believed he cared deeply for her. “Wanted people to feel sorry for her.” Funny, I heard that from my own mother quite a bit when I was a teenager, lost in the darkness of borderline personality disorder. The photo then alleges that people are calling Amanda Todd an “inspiration” and a “role model.”

In all the reading I have done since learning about Amanda Todd, I have not seen either of those ascribed to her. I have read articles that detail the fact she was being stalked by an adult male, who managed to find her every time she changed schools. I have read articles about the bullying, physical attacks and harassment she suffered at the hands of classmates. And I have watched her heartbreaking You Tube video. This was a girl who struck me as deeply troubled. She engaged in extremely risky and self-destructive behavior, her self esteem was non existent and she confused sex with love.

The photo posted by I Do Not Need Anger Management, You Just Need To Shut Up was offensive, but nothing could compare to some of the comments:

“Amanda Todd deserved bleach… Filth…” (liked by 3 people)

” i have a couple gallons she can have…..” (liked by 1 person)

“A young dead girl that was stupid enough to strip on blogtv got bullied for being filth, and killed herself. Her fault not mine.” (liked by 9 people)

“Do you think Amanda’s kisses taste like bleach?” (liked by 2 people)

“I have no sympathy for this Amanda Todd.. she was a dumbass… definitely not the poster child for anti-bullying.” (liked by 2 people)

“Amazes me how, while the person is alive they are the devil incarnate….but, they die (no matter how) and all of a sudden EVERY one that WAS  talking shit…changes their tune and gets pissed when others point this out!” (liked by 12 people)

“Waah waah…..it’s stories like this one that give excuses for the rest of the little sluts that DON’T off themselves because their wittle feewings were hurt. Not happy she’s dead, of course, but don’t blame anybody except her and her worthless parents.” (liked by 9 people)

There were quite a few supporting Amanda Todd and calling out I Do Not Need Anger Management, You Just Need To Shut Up:

“First off I will say this. That pic is not Amanda Todd. Secondly all that crap posted never occurred. She was a 15 year old girl. Not saying she was an angel. But doesn’t deserve this. Ban me if you want. I am just stating my opinion. Do your research on Amanda Todd before you judge her.” (liked by 13 people)

“I Hope none of the admins on this page has kids, you should be ashamed of your selves right now this page went from funny to disgusting in a matter of seconds” (liked by 9 people)

“Ok, as many people above my post have pointed out, Ms Todd was a child. The reason this is significant is WHY this is such a sad story, and a post done in poor taste. You see some parts of the brain like the prefrontal cortex, which makes people ”act like an adult,” is not fully developed in a teenager until after the age of 18.” (liked by 3 people)

I am firm supporter of public Internet shaming, if it is deserved. This Facebook page compared an adult woman to an obviously disturbed teenager by posting this photo. One of the administrators for the page explained their reasoning:

“wow!! ha!! nobody reads the post?? i get she was a kid, n everything smalls seems huge then, never said she deserved 2 die, just dont think she was an innocent role modeblank The Death of Empathy HPF” (liked by 7 people)

Small. Being stalked and blackmailed by an adult man for three years, beaten, bullied and harassed, spiraling into mental illness, self harm, drug and alcohol abuse. I don’t think that’s “small,” do you?

Update: As of 10AM Saturday, I Do Not Need Anger Management, You Just Need To Shut Up has removed the photo. Here is their reason:

” i deleted it i couldnt take bbsittin the post anymore!! Thank You So Much 4 Ur Post Krista! blank The Death of Empathy HPF” (No apology, no remorse, just that HPF couldn’t “take bbsitting” the post any longer.)

Thanks to The New Yorker for contributions to this article.

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 The Death of Empathy
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Posted by on October 21, 2012. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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7 Responses to The Death of Empathy

  1. Carol Maietta views Reply

    October 21, 2012 at 10:27 am

    There are some stupid and uncaring people in this world. Hopefully, those replies are from immature children, but I am just being hopeful here. And, what about a post about the adult male? I can think of a bunch of things that should say. Thanks Erin

  2. James Smith Reply

    October 21, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Let’s all notice that most of the hate comments were from “good christians.” That’s not surprising to me as, in my experience, christians have been amazingly intolerant and hateful. They are also arrogant about their thinking.

    In my entire life, (I’ll be 70 in November, 2012) every time I have been cheated, misused, taken advantage of, or otherwise mistreated, it has been by a “good christian.” Yes, I know there are honest, decent christians. I have many friends that are christians and they are not evil. I also know that there are dishonest, evil atheists. But on a percentage basis, not so many as theists.

    Even so, if every time you had been misused, it was by a red-haired person, would you become wary of redheads?

  3. Anonymous Reply

    October 21, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Well said. No child should suffer what she did at the hands of an adult. He deserves the shame and guilt her. Who is actually an angel? We all make mistakes.

  4. Erin Nanasi Reply

    October 21, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Carol-it was incredibly upsetting to see the photo, and to read the comments supporting the message of that photo. What’s awful is that while that picture is gone, the Facebook page last night added one with a young man, pretending to drink a bottle of bleach. The caption read “Am I Amanda Todd now?” Cruelty for sport, I guess, is a new American value.

    James-I don’t know that any of those comments were from Christians, right wing or otherwise. I didn’t paste their names because I didn’t want anyone finding them online and possibly harassing them. The answer to bullying is not more bullying. The answer is to help the next Amanda Todd, and thanks to Facebook pages like I Do Not Need Anger Management, You Just Need To Shut Up and many of their supporters, my guess is there will always be more Amandas.

  5. Bill Formby Reply

    October 21, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Erin, these are the same people who kill animals for sport and make fun of the physical and mentally disabled. As Ron White the comedian has said “You can’t fix stupid.” I have added to that, “Being a moron is an incurable disease.” And the person who started that Facebook page was right, s/he does not need anger management they all need a brain.

  6. Brian Eckard Reply

    October 23, 2012 at 12:29 am

    I have seen this “offensive” image, and if you really think none of those things are being said about Amanda, I suggest you need glasses. Sadly Amanda has been in numerous online sex videos on BlogTV, and this extreme idolization of her is justifying her lifestyle to children today. No, she is not a role model by any means, nor did she deserve her fate, but I’m sure it wouldn’t of happened if she didn’t make those videos on line to all those strange men in chat rooms. There’s a lesson to be learned from all of this, don’t just brush it under the rug. You can see people actually documented what she has done over the years. go to youtube and search “the daily capper amanda”. If we don’t teach our children that Amanda was wrong for what she did, they will believe it is ok and repeat it themselves. @Bill, did you even see the image?

    • Erin Nanasi Reply

      October 23, 2012 at 8:02 am

      Brian, I am very glad you are not a part of my life or anyone else’s life who has spiraled downward into mental illness. I have spoken to our son about Amanda, and the lessons to be learned.

      How’s the weather on that high horse? As my grandfather used to say, watch out for the drop, it’s a doozy.

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