Bullying on Social Media

My daughter’s BFF from college died October 4 from an apparent overdose. She left the many people who loved her in stunned grief, especially her husband, parents, family, and three small children. How pathetic that those mourning her death have been subjected to the cruelest bullying on social media on top of their unimaginable loss.

By Amber Mae

By Amber Mae

Many tabloids, print and online, felt this tragedy was worthy of exploitation. After all, she was a beautiful, intelligent Long Island doctor who seemed to have it all. They ran headlines like:

  • Lurid double life
  • Cheated on her husband? (note the question mark)
  • Beloved nightlife fixture
  • Doctor Overdoses at High-Society NYC ‘Cocaine Apartment’
  • Tragic flashback to fresh-faced youth of top doctor who won America’s Junior Miss Competition at 18

The overdose took place at the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week. Addiction is a form of mental illness. Unfortunately, no one close to this woman had any idea she had a problem. To most, she had it all. Objectively, her life seemed perfect. But to her, for reasons unknown to the many people who loved her, it wasn’t.

The poem Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson keeps running through my head:

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
‘Good-morning,’ and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Her ending was as tragic and unexpected as those of many very successful public figures like Philip Seymour Hoffman or Heath Ledger or Cory Monteith or even Marilyn Monroe. But there is one important difference. They were celebrities. She was someone’s wife, mother, and daughter.

I am deliberately not giving you her name because if you Google it, you will find one salacious story after another. The media bullying was so relentless that every funeral home in New York City, her hometown, and her parents’ hometown was contacted to see if her body was there. Of course, they wanted to cover the funeral. Tragically, her family could not hold a funeral service so people like my daughter could go to express their condolences.

Because so many people needed a way to reach out to her family, her husband started a YouCaring page. On it he stated, “A number of family friends have asked how they may be able to honor her memory and further express their love for her and us. This effort has been initiated to establish a fund dedicated to the future college education of our three young children. Thank you all again for your thoughtfulness, love and comfort. We hope to be able to give back some of the love and affection to each of you throughout our lives as we become restored and stronger.”

Such beautiful words from a man left with the task of dealing with the loss of his wife and the job of raising three children under the age of five. People were free to donate if that was their wish. Anyone who came across this page and found it distasteful was free not to donate. Instead, social media bullying sunk to a new low when the following comments were made:

“You and your late wife are/were obviously very affluent and no doubt she had insurance on top of that. And here you are shilling for money on the Internet. Disgusting,” said Elyse.

“This is more shocking than her shocking death. Elyse couldn’t have said it better,” said Catherine.

I have included the first names of the bullies because they felt so free to condemn a woman who was clearly struggling with demons no one understood. Elyse and Catherine, next time you feel compelled to make a cruel comment judging someone else, perhaps it would be better to follow the old maxim: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

To all of the social media bullies out there, have you given a moment’s thought to her three very young children? When they are old enough to seek out information about their mother, will you be proud of what you put out there for them to see?

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