The news this week has carried an item that is so unbelievably sad. A fourteen year old girl from the midlands took her own life last Friday after suffering cyber bullying on the social media site ‘ask.fm’. I’m sure those who posted horrible comments only did it as a joke, I did lots of stupid things when I was fourteen, but the results have been a tragedy and sadly it isn’t the first incident of this type.
I’ve seen the site in my news feed on facebook though I’ve never accessed it. From what I can gather (yes that does make me sound old), users ask questions to which others can respond anonymously. I have also noticed young people entering the status ‘like for a line’ which invites someone to ‘like’ the status in return for a comment on them by the other person, sometimes sent privately.
It’s sometimes convenient to view young people as a sort of separate species or at least a different stage in the life cycle of a human being, like a tadpole to a frog. It makes things so much easier for us older people since we can distance ourselves from the weaknesses of the young. In truth, young people are just that, they are people who happen to be young. Not exactly earth shattering wisdom I know but it seems most of us have the same needs for affirmation, to be loved and valued. Sometimes, we seek this affirmation by being cruel to others. I’m sure most of us can remember as children an occasion when we were part of a group that was laughing at someone else and we did it because there was the fear that if we didn’t, the focus would turn to us. As we age, it isn’t that we become less frail, we become more adept at concealing our true feelings and more subtle in our insults.
Our leaders have no answers to this cyber bullying. If the authorities are unable to stem the increasing tide of child sexual abuse online, how can they cope with dealing with millions of teenagers who spend their lives online? Mr Cameron has suggested a boycott of sites like ‘ask.fm’; I’m not holding my breath.
Where society flounders in a search for answers, the gospel brings hope and I would like to make two points here;
- Jesus was bullied. He was subjected to unimaginable, sustained physical and mental abuse. He was beaten and spat upon, whipped and mocked and then shown to an angry mob who screamed ‘crucify him, crucify him!’ What they were saying was ‘we want you dead’, and as he fought for breath they laughed at him as he died. Jesus has been there. He knows what it’s like to be hated without reason. He understands.
- Jesus endured unspeakable cruelty because he loved you. We search for love and affirmation in the wrong places, people will let us down, we are all weak and insecure. Paul writes in Galatians;
“I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
That’s love, that’s affirmation and it must mean that we are truly precious and valuable to God.