Amanda Todd has a lesson for us but it’s not online

It’s all too little too late for Amanda Todd.

Where, I am wondering, were the 700,000 people who now express online ‘like’ for the teenager when she needed them most?  What use to her, really, are the 100 Facebook memorial pages set up in her memory?

Across the country people are staging makeshift memorials for a girl they never knew.  They are lighting candles in her honour.  Her name is being carried across radio airwaves, her face graces TV newscasts. Politicians are speaking about her in legislatures and parliament.

Run a Google search on her name and you’ll bring up more than two million hits. You can watch the video she posted online to explain the pain and torment she suffered because she was a victim of bullying. You might even begin to feel like you know her; her presence is everywhere.

Amanda Todd is on everyone’s minds these days. She’s finally popular. But it’s too late.

Don’t misunderstand me. Amanda Todd deserves our attention. She has a message that we cannot afford to ignore. Her death is undoubtedly bringing hope and life to other teenagers who are victims of bullying. Some bullies may actually stop their cruelty and choose to live kindly.

These would be worthwhile outcomes to this tragedy; a small salve on the wound Amanda Todd’s death has left on our world.

But I cannot help but wonder if her death will really change anything at all.  I wonder this because it seems far easier to make a comment about someone who has died than to actually offer them help while they are alive. Of the 700,000 people who ‘like’ Amanda Todd now, was not one available to help her as she struggled through life?

I’ve been thinking about my own school days as I’ve followed Amanda’s story these past few weeks.  I was not bullied, nor was I a bully. But I was far from perfect, and not always kind.

In fact, an old school chum, when we reconnected on Facebook, reminded me that he still had the sliver of a lead pencil embedded in the palm of his hand, thanks to me. I think we were in Grade 5 or 6 when I stabbed him with the pencil. I can’t remember why I behaved so badly but I was rather horrified to revisit the memory of my crime when he reminded me of it.

As I grew up, though, I stopped giving into the inclination to wound, and began to live instead with kindness. I’m sure that my circle of friends, a supportive family, adult mentors and great teachers all contributed to the fact that I matured as a reasonable human being.

By the time I reached high school, I had the guts at least once to speak up for a friend who was the target of bullies.

I remember the day as if it were yesterday. I was in a bathroom stall and could overhear two girls standing at the sinks gossiping and laughing about my friend. I remember sitting in the stall trying to muster up the courage to confront the girls in the bathroom. I remember how hard it was to push open the door and tell them to stop making fun of my friend.

But I did it. And I think it was a turning point in my life. I don’t remember exactly what I said. I do recall seeing their shocked faces as I told them to stop saying mean things. Then I pushed my way past them and rushed out of the bathroom.

I was really only brave enough for one quick comment. I didn’t want to stick around and argue with them.

Amanda Todd’s death has revealed a lot about our world, some of it good, some of it horrible.  But here is the main lesson I am taking from her story:

Amanda might still be alive if more people had ‘liked’ her in person, had honoured her in life and had helped her face down her bullies. There’s nothing wrong with ‘liking’ a Facebook page set up in someone’s honour – unless you don’t have the guts to tell the person how you feel to their face.

This is how we should live with each other in this world: Speak truth in love. Speak it gently. And look at the person while you are speaking.  Listen to what he has to say. Have a conversation. Face to face. In person.

And, please, be kind.

Lynda MacGibbon is a transplanted Maritimer living in Toronto. Her column appears each Friday. Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @lyndamacgibbon.

7 thoughts on “Amanda Todd has a lesson for us but it’s not online

  1. Amanda’s story is a sad one. And sadder that, unfortunately, it isn’t an uncommon one. Your post made me wonder what accountability there is for a person’s integrity in regards to his/her online voice. It’s so easy to ‘Like’ or ‘Favourite’ something in social media now. But, there’s little commitment or accountability or agency, even, that comes with it. I’m reminded of the importance and urgency of challenging young people with these things.

    1. well said, Jessica. I don’t think there is much accountability, which is why the work you do is so important — teach young people integrity and to value others and they wouldn’t even consider going to this dark place.

  2. I’ve often wondered how this makes the parents or family members or friends feel. How difficult it must be for them, to see their memory elevated and made larger than their real life ever might have been. As if their dying were more important than their living. And I, too, find the ease of social media sympathy to be disconcerting. It keeps us informed, but insulated, as well.

  3. There are a lot more things going on in the Amanda Todd story than anyone wants to pay attention to. Sure, bullying. After the fact we’re all just so sorry.

    In the months before Amanda Todd’s death, Katherine Middleton was photographed in a private place by intrusive media, and monsters from all over our world WANTED TO LOOK, and FOR THEM, these pictures were posted all over the internet without a thought to her as a human being. A former Italian Prime Minister deliberately passed them around via his media empire TO MAKE MONEY off the violation of this woman’s privacy. People debated whether there was anything wrong with this. The Duchess is far from the only woman publicly bullied like this–the list is long and there are websites all over the world where “people” can post photos of others, however obtained, to demoralize them. This is the world Amanda Todd’s bullies live in.

    Yes, Amanda Todd suffered constant harrassment but it stemmed from the incident with the original online photos. I am appalled that society cannot recognize where it demonstrates acceptance of this kind of abuse, then revels in this superficial, after-the-fact sensational “sympathy” when someone can’t bear the pain.

    Now some media are publishing comments blaming the Duchess for the death of a nurse when her only contribution to it was to have morning sickness, as surely we knew the media eventually would. People are continuing to leer sickly over the awful photos of victims posted on lewd websites and consume all manner of sensational, abusive publications. And yet we cannot figure out why the children in such a society turn out to be such monsters that they would bully a peer to her death. To them I am sure their behaviour looks normal in reference to their surroundings! Until after someone dies.

    That’s my 2 bits.

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