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Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Why Facebook bullying is a step too far

This blog post is a bit different! I hope you all like it and take into account what I have said as I'd like to start posting more posts like this in future.

Just before Christmas I saw this article.

This sad story is about a boy, Simon Foxley, who committed suicide after a girl he was attracted to ignored him and defriended him on Facebook, and her friends sent threatening messages to him. Reading this made me feel really sad and ashamed because although I’ve never been affected so badly by this type of thing happening, I have been on both ends of the spectrum here.

I think a lot of readers of this blog can admit to ignoring a guy after he comes across just too eager. Even though I’ve been on the receiving end of this treatment, I’m ashamed to say that I have many times expressed my interest in a guy and, instead of telling him so firmly when I change my mind about him, I’ve instead ‘phased him out’, ignoring his messages until he gets the message.

However, I often get angry when people treat me with the same treatment. There have been times when I’ve been getting on extremely well with a guy and genuinely just clicked with him, only to find him ignoring me for no apparent reason not long afterwards. I’ve expressed confusion to friends in these situations many times, trying to work out whether continuing to contact him just in case (just in case he’s lost my number, just in case he didn’t get my last message and so on) would be deemed too desperate. In fact on a regular basis I rant to anyone who will listen how sucks it is dating in modern society. If I’m convinced everything is going well and a guy ignores me, why shouldn’t I contact him again and find out why? I often think if I knew what had gone wrong, I’d know not to repeat the mistake with others in future – if it was me who had made that mistake that is.

So I definitely know what its like to for someone to show interest and then ignore me all of a sudden. Furthermore, I can relate to Simon Foxley on how he may have felt – on some level. The article states that Simon had already been thinking of committing suicide and that being ignored and receiving bullying messages simply pushed him over the edge. I have never been in a situation where I’ve considered suicide as an option, but I can relate to him on other levels. What girl hasn’t felt down about being single? Who hasn’t been in a situation where, after another failed relationship, had their feelings messed around with and have wanted to give up – not on life but on dating?

So if we know this, why do we do exactly the same thing? We never stop to consider what another person may be going through because of course it never crosses our minds that by pressing delete on a message without a reply may be the last of many ignored messages that only pushes someone over the edge.

The article also talks about messages Simon received from the girl’s friends. It’s natural for friends to rally in and protect someone after they are bombarded with messages – if your friend was receiving messages from someone they’d never met, claiming to be in love with them, you’d no doubt worry about them. But sending threatening messages was obviously too far when perhaps just a firm message asking to be left alone would have been much better.

Nonetheless, as sad as this story is, reactions to the messages Simon was clearly sending to this girl are obviously debatable. No one deserves threatening messages, no matter what the circumstances are. However, the article states that Simon was obviously a sensitive person who was already thinking about suicide and was claiming to be in love with a girl he had never met. Sometimes when people don’t get the message, people DO have to be less polite, especially if they are worried about their safety.
Luckily, when I posted a poll about this situation on this blog, most of you voted that the best way to deal with someone in this situation is to tell them firmly that you are not interested, which is probably the best way to do so. It gives an obvious message, whereas being too nice could be interpreted as giving off the wrong impression.

Perhaps without these messages Simon would have sadly went on to take his own life anyway. Or perhaps among the thousands of messages exchanged – some of them talking about being in love – Simon came across as so eager that he scared the girl, especially not leaving her alone when she stopped to reply. When someone is already considering suicide it’s extremely hard to know how to deal with the situation, so who knows what would have happened without the further threatening messages.
However, it should always be remembered that none of us are ever 100% aware of what is going on with someone’s life. We’ve all been on the receiving end of the phase out and in turn we’ve all done it ourselves. Maybe ignoring that guy that sent just too many messages made no difference and he just accepted it wasn’t right and went on about his day anyway. But maybe ignoring him could have been the final straw or the last example of the cold shoulder after what had already been an extremely bad day.
So remember, if you are ever in this situation, it never hurts to explain to someone that you are not interested. You could offer to be friend instead, or you can just clarify that you’d like to stay single. And if they still don’t get the message and you feel like you are in danger then you should confide in someone else about how to deal with the situation. But there’s never any need to be rude, because you never know what is really going on with that person.

If you are in a situation like this - whether you are sending the messages or you are on the receiving end -  you can talk to Samaritans for confidential support, help or advice on 08457 90 90 90.


  1. My younger sister was bullied literally right the way though school just because she was a bit different to the other kids, the reason being that she has Asperger's syndrome (undiagnosed at the time). They moved onto facebook towards the end of it so my mum printed out the things they'd written as proof and got a solicitor'e letter written to the school letting them know that she would prosecute them and the parents of the kids doing it if it didn't stop. I saw the misery they put her through and I don't know how people can live with themselves.

  2. Such a sad, sad story! Facebook is brilliant for some things, but incredibly dangerous for others. Really interesting post, and hopefully it'll stop and make people think before they go off on another Facebook rant!


  3. Thanks for the comments girls!
    That's really terrible Emma, I'm sorry to hear that! Did they finally stop in the end?
    @Kathy B you're right, I think people cease to realize how dangerous Facebook can be, not just in terms of bullying but with how much information is posted as well.

  4. I don't know if you'll see this or not but I thought I'd put my opinion forward. It saddens me to see how quick people are to judge the girl, and even blame her. Her side of the story was never published and people need to realise that she had no control over what the other boys were saying. And I know as a fact that she was devastated when she found out what they had said and the results of it. As her boyfriend, I see how upset she gets over a year on about this event that has had a massive impact on her life.

    1. That's true, you're right that the media focused on only one side of the story. In this post I tried to focus on the message that despite this, people should always be more thoughtful about how their actions effect others. It's a shame that it took a situation like this to make the media take more notice I suppose. xxx

  5. This was such a sad story, and I know exactly how this must of felt to that poor guy. I'm saying this, as I was in a similar situation with a woman I was once friends with on Facebook, who I really admired, seemed to have clicked with, but ended up playing me, which I was so angry, and depressed over, after I found out the hard way how dead wrong I was about her, and how evil she was in the end. While I never considered killing myself over this, I did seriously consider pulling the plug on my Facebook experience afterwords, but thankfully didn't. My situation was worse, as that woman did claim she loved, and wanted to be with me, and can only imagine what it did to me, when I discovered the hard way it was all a lie. In the girl's defense who Simon committed suicide over, while she didn't exactly have to unfriend the guy when he confessed his feelings (since it seemed like they had a great friendship going until then), it's not like she ever said she liked, and wanted to be with him either, even if she got her point across a little too harsh. That, and didn't really have to get her other friends involved, who told the boy to go kill himself, which was really uncalled for. At the very least, she could have offered to still be friends, and explained to him that she wasn't comfortable being in a relationship together, then deleted (or blocked) him, if he kept giving her a hard time about that, and didn't respect her choice, knowing she had the right to say no. Or if she felt uncomfortable still being friends with Simon after his confession, just should have blocked him if he didn't leave her alone, which would have been far easier for him to get over, accept her decision, and move on, over what ended up happening in the end, which was obviously the last thing he needed in his life.


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