Monday, November 12, 2007

A MySpace Tragedy

But really, a moral failing tragedy. From the November 12, 2007 Suburban Journals, which is apparently a publication of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

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.

Josh said he was born in Florida and recently had moved to O'Fallon. He was homeschooled. He played the guitar and drums.

He was from a broken home: "when i was 7 my dad left me and my mom and my older brother and my newborn brother 3 boys god i know poor mom yeah she had such a hard time when we were younger finding work to pay for us after he loeft."

She 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 5½ 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.
Josh did not exist--and after playing games with Megan's head long enough, the teenagers involved drove her to suicide. If this stupid stunt had been entirely the work of teenagers, I would have been disappointed, but not terribly surprised. But the parents of one of the teenagers that put this ultimately deadly fraud together apparently played a part in it.

What really bothers me about this article is how completely unresponsible the parents who played a crucial role in this feel. Megan's parents are now divorcing. Megan's mom kept a very, very close watch on her daughter's online activities--but even this wasn't enough.

I can remember junior high school very well--the ferocious cruelties, the violence. Adding the anonymity and disconnectedness of cyberspace just aggravates the problem.

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