It is so easy for us to communicate online. Whether we want to update our Facebook statuses, send out tweets, or post YouTube videos, we can complete any of these actions in the matter of seconds with just the confirmation of the Enter key. Although such actions take no time at all, we sometimes fail to realize that those few seconds cannot be taken back. In some cases, it may seem like we can save these rather personal publications from going viral. Unfortunately, we have little control of what we post online after we send it through cyberspace.
It’s just as easy to forget about the things we put online. Our actions from the past can come back to haunt us…also very easily; most of the time, it is when we least expect it.
This past October, fifteen-year-old Amanda Todd committed suicide prior to her sixteenth birthday. Todd was a victim of cyberbullying and cyberstalking for two years after she exposed herself to an anonymous stranger that she had trusted during a video chat. The stranger blackmailed Amanda, asking for a “show”; and if he didn’t get one, Amanda’s reveal would be spread to her friends and throughout the Internet. A year later, an inappropriate photo of Amanda was set as a profile picture for another Facebook account created by the same anonymous figure. The blackmailer had contacted Todd’s friends from her school, which snowballed into, what came across as, a shameful and provocative reputation. Being judged by people at school and having to constantly move from place to place trying desperately to shake off her blackmailer, Amanda was consumed by depression, panic, and anxiety to the point of drug abuse, alcoholism, and self-harm.
A month before her death, Todd posted a video onto YouTube, which shared her story, “Struggling, Bullying, Suicide, Self-Harm”, which reached over one million views. Although there was nothing that could have been done to stop Todd from acting on her death, the plea expressed in her video influenced campaigns and support groups to urge teens to think about the consequences of posting “sexy” pictures or videos of themselves online. It was said In the Community Blog section of the CBC News website, that the Children of the Street Society, “a charity that seeks to protect children from sexual abuse,” recently started a campaign that “[intends] to raise awareness that, when you are online, there is no such thing as sharing just one photo”.
Amanda Todd’s story just goes to show that once we send things through cyberspace, anything can happen; the risks can be scary and endless. What also can be scary is the fact that poor choices continue to be made online everyday by teens and adults alike. According to Hallae Khosravi from the Toronto Standard, “teenagers aren’t going to stop sending naughty pictures anytime soon. We had it before the rise of smartphones and social media, and just as sex has never gone out of style, nor will the thrill of seeing and sending sexy pics”.
Like Todd’s story, her YouTube video that proved it all has created a permanent footprint in social media. The idea that your life could change from just one submission on the computer is something that all online users should always keep in mind. Although there are advantages of today’s technologies that make tasks quicker and easier to complete, we tend not to think about the downside—the Internet leads us into a trap that is hard to get out of. Everything we put online becomes permanent, instantly, and we are then vulnerable of what could happen next. Be safe when you are online…you won’t regret it.