Before I begin my reflection on the Fifth Estate broadcast: The Sextortion of Amanda Todd, I’d like to remind readers that this is a delicate subject and this post may be subject to trigger warnings and/or not safe for work or school material (NSFW) as it can be a touchy subject.
I’ve seen both “Sext Up Kids” and “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd before” and I’m sure that I have a post on one of them already but when asked to choose, view and reflect on one of them again, I chose “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd”. In the past year or two since I’ve viewed these videos for the first time, I’ve changed a lot and admitted many things to myself that I hadn’t been able to before that. Now when I watch “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd”, I see that I easily could have fallen into that. I was always interested in meeting new people on the internet and often having flirtationships with them. I was addicted to the praise in the words that strangers online would say about me because I felt as though I didn’t get that in real life. At the time, I was convinced that they were honest, but now I know that it was directed flattery with an intended purpose and reaction. While it’s wonderful to connect with other people (some of whom do fall in love and have a happy ending), I’ve found that every relationship that I’ve had that was based more on technology than face to face contact is toxic for me.
We put so much significance (especially in adolescence) into the things that people say. I’ve always found comfort in words (big surprise – I’m an english major…) but now that I look back everything I did had more significance in the words I say. Picking the right quote to photoshop onto a picture or finding just the right name for a photo album on Facebook or the right quote to post as your status or with a photo became a huge thing for me. I constantly draft conversations in head before I speak to someone in an effort to have it sound just right. Even when I was in IB Art in high school, I found that a running theme was the language and text that I used in my pieces. No one else in my class used text more than I did. I loved the words that other people said, recited and sang. Side note – curiously enough, I’ve noticed that I sing less when I’m in a toxic relationship. It’s easy to craft beautiful lies over a screen and I’ve heard them a thousand times (lies that bring you pride and shame). I see how easily I was convinced through technology that someone cared about me when the people who really cared were always there in person. I overlooked my people in favour of those on the internet. Lots of my relationships started online or through text messages (friends playing matchmaker, tinder, online dating websites, some even through Skype or chat websites with people I’ve never met to this day – probably for the better though). I am all for technology, don’t get me wrong its a wonderful tool, but there has to be an honesty in your online relationships that chat and dating websites etc. don’t give you especially relationships with intimacy such as many adolescents take part in over the internet be that romantic, flirting, intimate honesty or of a sexual nature. It’s easy to hide on the internet just as easy as it is to be open and honest.
Amanda’s situation seems that she was open while the other person was hiding behind their screen. Integrity on the internet is the major difference. The girl who was from Kingston, you could tell that she was sickened and that’s how I feel when I think about some of the things that I’ve revealed to strangers on the internet. At 14 or 17 or even 19 now, I still struggle with the things that people say to me although now I’ve shifted my focus to relationships that primarily reside in the realm of reality and honesty. It does feel like the world is ending because of kids at school. I remember crying in my moms lap on the couch in grade 11 because my friends thought that I was a slut. Growing up now, I’ve reclaimed my sexuality and have started the process of defining myself instead of someone else constructing how I’m looked at and defined. I can see the effects that other people have on my sister and on myself when I was younger and it makes me just as sick.
I’m a huge pessimist for relationships but in my opinion so I’m pretty biased when I say: let’s be real. Kids are going to do this stuff anyways. They’re going to experiment with their sexuality and with the internet and it’s going to suck from my experience. Maybe not at the same time but something will eventually happen that will leave your child, friend, sibling or someone close to you crying or traumatized. Someone older will take advantage of someone else regardless of gender or platform of communication. Thinking about it now, I’m more of a relationship pessimist than an internet pessimist. But the internet CAN be a catalyst for unhealthy relationships.