Graphic by Andrea Perng
I still remember those nights.
The tossing. The turning. The crying.
I’ve lost count of the number of times tears have dripped down my face and splattered on my pillow in the dark. I’ve allowed sorrow to surround me so many times; I can no longer feel the sour aftertaste of being a victim of cyberbullying. Her comments were like powerful anesthesia injected straight into my heart, not to numb the pain, but rather, the happiness.
Waking up to chilly mornings, stumbling groggily into classrooms, staring at the ever-dropping grades and shivering under the judging glares of people became part of my daily schedule. I struggled to put on jackets as a child and I struggled to stand up again after falling down when learning how to bike, but I always smiled afterwards. That all changed in seventh grade because of her posts on Google Plus. The smile on my face disappeared.
Her cruel words evolved into an entire thread of hateful messages from which other kids add onto simply because she was jealous that a boy who expressed feelings for her was “dating” me. Back in middle school, nobody truly understand what it means to date someone; that boy and I didn’t spend anymore time with each other longer than the 35 minutes break we had during lunch.
Even to this day, I am shocked at the simple things petty teenagers can lash out about online. Each reply, sentence, word and character stabbed at me for the rest of that school year. Her cyberbullying led me astray and changed me into a person I didn’t expect to become. I used to be a straight A student. I used to be surrounded with a group of friends, but afterwards, only the few who truly understood me remained.
In a span of about 10 minutes, I lost grasp of almost everything: my friends, my grades, my reputation and my personality. They slipped away from me no matter how hard I tried to explain, study and “fix” myself.
Before a friend of mine sent me an email filled with screenshots of the thread, I had been living obliviously, under the impression that true friendships were easy to find. I was under the impression that everyone could be understanding and not talk behind their friend’s back. I was wrong. All of a sudden, I found myself standing in cold isolation. I never told my parents. I didn’t tell my friends until years later. I’ve stopped conversing about my emotions. I’ve stopped trusting because I didn’t want to experience the same blow again.
Even to this day, she never apologized for that thread. Nor did any of the people who wrote in the thread.
I get it. We were young. We were in middle school.
It is common to hear the saying that bullies are just people. They say people make mistakes. Then what do mistakes make? Victims.
I’ve always felt that bullies bully because they want to dominate others and improve their social status. Looking back at the experience, I wondered what the girl gained from bullying me. She didn’t necessarily dominate me in the way she hoped; she certainly did not end up dating that boy. However, this reflection led me to think about other things I could have done during those agonizing moments.
Those bullying prevention programs offered help that I’ve considered taking but ended up backing out last minute. There were many times that I seriously considered talking to a counselor on campus, but I was too scared to enter their office.
I contemplated my reaction and realized that there were so many resources and trusting adults that I should have consulted but did not. Perhaps I was feeling too isolated and haunted that I immediately shut my emotions inward. Maybe it was because the way she talked about me online made me feel like I was actually worthless and undeserving of an expert’s help. The reason could also be because I didn’t think that adults, even therapists and psychological experts, would truly understand my feelings. I had the incorrect notion that I’d meet the experts for a limited amount of time and only in one meeting since I didn’t understand that those experts may meet with me multiple times. I am unsure of the exact reason why I didn’t seek outside help, but it does tell me that perhaps we need to find a new way to motivate those who are being bullied to speak up and voice their troubles.
Because of my unwillingness to speak up about this story, throughout high school, I’ve avoided recalling this experience as much as I could until this year. At this young age, such memories are forever etched into my mind. I can never forget how it feels to have someone talk behind my back. Even though I am now no longer afraid to share this story, I still feel the pain of remembering those nights.