Cyber bullying: Claudia Boerner’s sad death proves Twitter can be a playground for adults
The news today that a model who appeared on the German version of Come Dine With Me has committed suicide due to internet trolls, only sets in stone the harm that social networking sites can do if we misuse them.
Claudia Boerner appeared on The Perfect Dinner last month, and received a barrage of abuse criticizing her fake breasts, appearance, attention seeking and showing off.
A spokeswoman for Vox, the station that made the show said: ‘We don’t know if internet mobbing played a definite role in this case. We send our sympathy to the friends and family of the candidate.’
Neighbours reported smelling gas, although cause of death has not been determined. At this stage it’s not clear whether the internet bullying was responsible, of course it could be an accident, but if it is, it still highlights another example of vicious bullying when someone dares to place themselves in the public eye.
There’s no doubt that Twitter is a fantastically useful tool for promoting work and discovering breaking stories before news outlets have even cottoned on. It’s also a perfect medium for debate. I personally like hearing what others have to say on an issue, and often consider referencing points made in the future.
But when celebrities tweet to their thousands of followers cruel jibes about others, subtlety cajoling them into agreement; a feminist group can rally under a pseudonym to persecute others and then criticise when someone dares write about their intimidating treatment; or a blogger defames a writer’s name because they disagree with their judgment (I’ve witnessed this with an extremely talented writer recently, who overcame his concerns to write about a very personal issue), all morals are as good as pissed down society’s drain.
If everyone’s doing it – we’re just joining in, right? We’ve heard the cry “everyone’s a critic nowadays!”, and to some extent why shouldn’t we be?
If you don’t like someone’s argument, disagree by all means. Discussion, after all, positively promotes progress and change. We don’t have to plummet into a fictional sort of dystopia where we’re told what to say and think, but there is, however, a difference between expressing an opinion or making a harmless joke, and being outright offensive. Celebs are often seen entering rehab facilities citing exhaustion or mental health problems. Even when this happens, the immediate response is that they “must be faking it”, “exaggerating for the press”, “what did you expect?” or “boohoo, cry me a river, you’re rich!”
If you want to become a performer, or even just appear on a reality show for your fifteen minutes – should you accept your inevitable fate that you will be targeted? And that this unprecedented hatred about your view (or even just your face) will manifest itself on the internet to be seen by not only yourself and your family, but millions worldwide?
Those in the public eye who’ve spoken about their depression in the past should be sympathised with, just as anyone else seeking help should be. If you’ve ever had your name spoken about on Twitter negatively, you’ll know the nauseous feeling that manifests itself instantly, hoping that this won’t escalate. Having done a lot of comment moderation on the Independent’s website in the past, I’ve seen the bile and threats that are thrown around anonymously and try to warn potentially controversial bloggers about commenters, and tell them not to take them all too seriously.
The internet has undoubtedly offered a unique platform for free expression that is like no other in scope. The benefits amassed so far are indisputably astonishing. But the pressure of surmounting attention can be overwhelming, and because some people have may have seen financial or critical success, many of those in the public eye often say they cope by not reading things about themselves.
Last week Samantha Brick became an overnight sensation when was the victim of a hate campaign for daring to comment that she thought women had disliked her for being attractive. Many discovered this after she rapidly found herself a trending topic. I guess that makes bullying trendy.
Over the weekend, my eleven year-old niece informed me of how she was talking to her friend who was upset about some typical childish bullying in the form of changing Blackberry and Facebook statuses to say nasty things about her. While we accept that we won’t be liked and agreed with by everyone, and appreciate that this kind of behaviour toughens us up as adults, why is it still happening when we reach adulthood?
I would go so far as to advocate guidelines being offered in schools about how to use social networking responsibly as part of an anti-bullying lesson, because it’s becoming abundantly clear that as adults we’re increasingly regressing to playground behaviour.Tagged in: bullying, Claudia Boerner, Come Dine With Me, social networking, the perfect dinner, twitter
Recent Posts on Notebook
- Justin Webb on the medical advances in tackling heart disease
- The Photography Blog: 'Control Order House' by Edmund Clark - Photographing our response to terrorism
- Dementia Awareness Week: Should we keep an open mind to spiritual solutions?
- Hearing loss: An invisible impairment and a preventable disability
- Barking Blondes: When to vaccinate
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter