TW: severe online harassment
I sometimes wonder if stories like this will ever cease to exist, or if they will just increase in volume until they are no longer fringe experiences. Stories identical to this have played out on message boards for decades, and now they almost single-handedly explain the existence of private Facebook groups. Just a month ago, I read a nearly identical article about Young Adult fiction fan groups on Twitter.
Although tales of cliques gone awry are as old as socialization, the intensity of these stories are intrinsically ‘internet’ in a supremely fucked up way. The notion that you don’t have to yell in someone’s face, or strike them with your fists, in order to hurt a person allows for those who otherwise would not engage face-to-face to feed their demons in the dark. Emailing a target’s bosses, contacting their friends and family, quietly viewing LinkedIn pages to notify the target that someone has viewed their profile, declaring that anyone who is friends with the target is a bad person/bigot/will be unfriended/blocked - executed effectively, all of this can be one thousand times worse than a punch to the face or a shouted insult. Worse still, the avenue for destruction is always open, and so it is always heavily-trafficked. All you have to do is turn on your phone to harass someone into committing suicide.
If this article surprises you, or my response surprises you, just wait. A story like this will personally affect you soon.