Tuesday morning, I woke up, got ready for work, and quickly logged online to check my Newsgator feeds before leaving, as I always do, and read this post from Dan Collins at Protein Wisdom, who linked up to commentary by Ace of Spades blogger Jack M. on a disturbing story about a 13 y/o girl named Megan Meier who killed herself after being duped and ridiculed online by two people in her neighborhood who were posing as a young boy that was supposedly interested in her.
The two people were a former friend of hers …. and that friend’s mother.
Here are some snippets from the article:
His name was Josh Evans. He was 16 years old. And he was hot.
“Mom! Mom! Mom! Look at him!” Tina Meier recalls her daughter saying.
Josh had contacted Megan Meier through her MySpace page and wanted to be added as a friend.Yes, he’s cute, Tina Meier told her daughter. “Do you know who he is?”
“No, but look at him! He’s hot! Please, please, can I add him?”
Mom said yes. And for six weeks Megan and Josh – under Tina’s watchful eye – became acquainted in the virtual world of MySpace.
[Megan] loved swimming, boating, fishing, dogs, rap music and boys. But her life had not always been easy, her mother says.
She was heavy and for years had tried to lose weight. She had attention deficit disorder and battled depression. Back in third grade she had talked about suicide, Tina says, and ever since had seen a therapist.
But things were going exceptionally well. She had shed 20 pounds, getting down to 175. She was 5 foot 5Â½ inches tall.
She had just started eighth grade at a new school, Immaculate Conception, in Dardenne Prairie, where she was on the volleyball team. She had attended Fort Zumwalt public schools before that.
Amid all these positives, Tina says, her daughter decided to end a friendship with a girlfriend who lived down the street from them. The girls had spent much of seventh grade alternating between being friends and, the next day, not being friends, Tina says.
Part of the reason for Megan’s rosy outlook was Josh, Tina says. After school, Megan would rush to the computer.
“Megan had a lifelong struggle with weight and self-esteem,” Tina says. “And now she finally had a boy who she thought really thought she was pretty.”
It did seem odd, Tina says, that Josh never asked for Megan’s phone number. And when Megan asked for his, she says, Josh said he didn’t have a cell and his mother did not yet have a landline.
And then on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006, Megan received a puzzling and disturbing message from Josh. Tina recalls that it said: “I don’t know if I want to be friends with you anymore because I’ve heard that you are not very nice to your friends.”
Frantic, Megan shot back: “What are you talking about?”
Tina Meier was wary of the cyber-world of MySpace and its 70 million users. People are not always who they say they are.
Tina knew firsthand. Megan and the girl down the block, the former friend, once had created a fake MySpace account, using the photo of a good-looking girl as a way to talk to boys online, Tina says. When Tina found out, she ended Megan’s access.
MySpace has rules. A lot of them. There are nine pages of terms and conditions. The long list of prohibited content includes sexual material. And users must be at least 14.
“Are you joking?” Tina asks. “There are fifth-grade girls who have MySpace accounts.”
As for sexual content, Tina says, most parents have no clue how much there is. And Megan wasn’t 14 when she opened her account. To join, you are asked your age but there is no check. The accounts are free.
As Megan’s 14th birthday approached, she pleaded for her mom to give her another chance on MySpace, and Tina relented.
She told Megan she would be all over this account, monitoring it. Megan didn’t always make good choices because of her ADD, Tina says. And this time, Megan’s page would be set to private and only Mom and Dad would have the password.
Read the rest of it to find out what was said that eventually led up to Megan’s committing suicide.
I’m sure the mother and daughter who set up this fake “Josh Evans” online ID didn’t intend to cause Megan to take her own life, but nevertheless it’s a reminder of how utterly vicious people can be without actually committing a crime, and how sometimes that viciousness can lead to disastrous consequences, especially when the objects of the invective are teen-aged kids, kids who are at that awkward stage in life where they are struggling to find their way, and wanting desperately to be accepted.
Of course, every kid has different ways of handling the typical stress that goes along with being a teenager: a rare few don’t sweat the stress, but for the rest of them who do sweat it, some take the lemons and make lemonade out of them, some become introverted, a handful turn to violence, while others – a tiny minority – take their lives because the pressure becomes too much for them to handle.
This story has stayed with me since I read it, primarily because Megan Meir reminded me of myself when I was her age. She was short, struggling with her looks and self-esteem, frequently down, and wanted so very much for people to like her, so much so that when an “older boy” showed interest in her, she jumped at the chance to strike up a friendship with him, clearly hoping for more.
Obiviously, we handled the pressure of being a teenager in two entirely different ways. Growing up, I was anxious for the high school years to be over, and when they finally were I eagerly moved on to college, where I had the chance to start fresh, make new friends, and get away from the negativity of my high school life. But if you’re one of those who, like me, never did quite “fit in” in junior and senior high school, I don’t think you ever can completely “move on” from some of the hurtful things that were said and done to you as an impressionable, fledgling teen.
For example: my first “serious” boyfriend in high school ruined my self esteem (not to mention my impression of men) for a very, very long time by using a mixture of methods. First, there were the conventional methods young men sometimes use: 1) like making a point of flirting outrageously with other girls in front of me – causing me to repeatedly question whether or not I was pretty enough, 2) telling me how “lucky” I – a goofy looking, slightly overweight sophomore – was to be dating him, an in-shape senior – which in turn made me ashamed for oftentimes feeling like I was getting the short end of the stick, 3) using sex as a weapon, or more specifically, constantly ridiculing my insistence on wanting to wait until the moment was right by threatening to “move on” to a more “mature” woman, 4) and as a result of his frustration on that front, there were several attempts at “educating” me on the issue, one of which was a near date-rape situation, which I talked about here (scroll).
But as bad as all that was, it was the one unconventional method I remember him using that was the most damaging long-term. My bf and I attended the same high school, and would frequently bump into each other during the course of the day. There were times when we stopped and talked to each other, hugged each other, etc, but then there were the times when he would walk right by me as though I didn’t even exist. One minute he’d be very affectionate, but then after the next class we’d walk by each other and I’d try to get his attention and he would outright ignore me. This would sometimes go on for days, what with me wondering what it was that I said or did that caused him to be angry. I would agonize for hours on end, analyzing things that I had said and done in fruitless attempts at trying to resolve the problem. Eventually, he would end up talking to me again, but he never would explain to me why he would go from hot to cold in the blink of an eye. This went on off and on for about six months. I found out later that his days-on-end ignoring of me was a “loyalty test” of sorts, to see what lengths I would go through to get his attention again, and to see if I would ever break down and ask mutual friends for help, which to him would have been the ultimate sign of “betrayal.”
Thankfully, I moved on to better things and eventually forgot about the jerk, but the damage to my self-worth had been done. It took me years and years to get to a point where I didn’t question and obsess over the rightness or wrongness of my every move every single day. It still happens, but much less than it used to.
It may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not. I’m just thankful I made it through my grade-school years with only minor (in the scheme of things) scarring. I wish instead of reading about Megan Meier’s suicide, that she was still around, learning in school and learning to enjoy life, and telling us all in a few years about how she made it through the rough and tumble of her teenage years, too.
It is always sad to hear/read about the death of someone so young, but it is especially heartbreaking when you read that their death occurred as a result of them taking their own life, because you can surmise from it that the person was in so much pain, felt so alone and unwanted, that they figured life was better off without them in it.
Megan was a little girl who was loved very much by her family. Please remember them – and her – in your thoughts and prayers.