I'm doing research on cyber bullying for a project I'm working on. (Okay, it's a sketch show. Sounds hilarious, right? See you all there.) Cyber communication was a really big part in my adolescent experience. AIM was King, y'all. To be honest, I miss it sometimes. There was something very sweet about having to login and see if that person you were friends with that week was online.
A giant forgotten aspect of AIM was the profiles. Profiles were the blank space under your name where you could write anything. Common profiles would typically be song lyrics, the date you started dating someone, an inside joke for only one person, a funny quote. I was always gunning for being the funny quote in other people's profiles. There is an actual entry of my freshman year diary that reads, "I am in five people's profiles right now!"
I've been grateful while reading these bullying articles that most social media hit the scene after my school years. Maybe I wasn't aware of it, but I don't think there was much cyber bullying with simple chat. Occasionally a rando would talk to you, and you'd block them. The end. But then I totally remember that I totally was cyber bullied, but I didn't think much of it?
When I was 15, a short strange thing occurred while I was at speech team practice. It happened in about two minutes, and I bare considered it, but I guess it probably changed at least one student's life pretty significantly. A Girl asked about some cans of pop in the classroom (no teacher there for about ten minutes). Henne said, "You can't have any," thinking that's why she asked. "I wasn't going to steal any," she said, "Do you think I was going to steal them because I'm black?" Very confusing escalation. I didn't know if she was kidding or not. I didn't know Girl very well, but she was usually friendly. Another guy there (and there were five of us in the room total--the fifth sitting at a computer, her backs to us), let's call him C, said, "Take this" and pulled out a switchblade. Girl took the switchblade and pointed it at me and Henne. "You take that back" (or something along those lines). I don't even remember what happened next. I think Girl started laughing and we all kept working. I literally did not think of it again.
Until a week or so later I was pulled out of a chemistry test and asked to come to the security office. I was told to write down on a piece of paper what happened after school on an arbitrary date. I said, "Nothing." The officers kept pressing me. I had no idea. Finally one said, "No one pulled a knife out after school in a classroom?" I said, "Oh. Yeah." They smirked. I think they thought I was trying to cover up something, but I sincerely had forgotten. I said it wasn't a big deal, and they told me they needed documentation anyway. I was in the middle of a test and eager to get back to it. I wrote down a very simple statement that C had a knife, Girl held it briefly.
So, a couple days later, I find out C is expelled. How I find out is my friend Smidge IMs me and asks what I did to make everyone so mad. Apparently a dozen or so people changed their profiles to "We will miss you, C. Alice _____ will die." I guess C must have assumed I was the only one who told on him? But someone must have first? The girl at the computer? Who can say. Mainly, the result was a bunch of people at my school publicly wrote me a death threat. The weirdest part though...is how I reacted. I asked Smidge to tell me who hated me. I didn't know most of the people--C was in a grade above me. I only knew one guy, and we didn't have any classes together, so I was like, "Oh good, won't be a problem." I didn't tell a teacher or my parents or confront anyone who said they wanted me dead. I avoided those people in the cafeteria, and went on with sophomore year. In hindsight, I'm not sure how I feel about it all. Obviously I didn't feel I was in actual danger, but maybe I was? (Probably not.) It certainly wasn't right for those kids to do that, and maybe they should have learned a lesson? But somehow I was unaffected, so maybe it all worked out just fine?
I wonder how the rest of C's schooling went. I actually liked the guy. I wonder if he remembers me as a person who ruined his life.