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With the rise in popularity of social media sites, online bullying has become a disturbing worldwide trend. Recently, celebrities have suffered anxiety and pain after being targeted by negative Twitter campaigns. Stars of television, music, and film actively tweet to share updates, pictures, and thoughts in 140 characters or less. Twitter allows celebrities to interact with their fans in a way that they never could before. Unfortunately, it also makes them vulnerable to online attacks.
Australia’s Next Top Model judge Charlotte Dawson battled such severe Twitter bullying that it allegedly resulted in an attempt to take her own life. Dawson tried to take a stand against several angry tweets directing her to kill herself, which included the Twitter thread “#diecharlotte,” but her efforts only seemed to add to the fury. Clearly defeated and shortly before being hospitalized, she tweeted, “Hope this ends the misery” and “You win.”
Leann Rimes struggled with similar behavior from Twitter users, and recently filed a civil lawsuit against two in particular after portions of a conversation between them was posted on the Internet without her permission. The conversation was intended to put an end to the barrage of negative tweets; however, it ended up being used to fuel the fire. As a result, Rimes checked herself into a rehabilitation facility to seek the help of professional therapists to “cope” with the perils of fame.
It seems that reality television stars are especially targeted by Twitter bullying. Real Housewives of New Jersey star Caroline Manzo occasionally retweets negative tweets, adding a sarcastic “Thank you!” Manzo’s daughter Lauren, who can be seen struggling with her weight during the show’s most reason season, has been the subject of several negative tweets commenting on her size. Actress and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Kyle Richards admits that she was “overwhelmed” by Twitter bullying at first and at times felt like it was “too much” for her to handle.
Kirstie Alley recently tweeted, “If someone isn't hating you, you're doing something wrong. Trolls loathe power and goodness ...expect them. It's a sign of success. ;)” The term “troll” refers to Internet users whose sole purpose is to post inflammatory comments online. Trolls often operate under fictitious screen names to protect their identity. Anonymity gives them a sense of protection that their celebrity targets are unable to possess. The price of fame often includes being disliked by a percentage of the public audience, but no matter what the circumstances of a person’s life, they do not deserve to be victimized by bullies.
Twitter “trolls” are after one thing: attention. According to Bullying Prevention Coordinator for the U.S. Department of Education Deborah Temkin, “When people engage in bullying behavior, they’re looking for a response.” With a social media website like Twitter, the response is immediate. While it may be difficult for stars to ignore negative tweets, that is actually the most efficient way to disarm the situation. With regard to handling online bullies, Temkin advises, “If they don’t receive that response, they’re not encouraged to continue that bullying behavior. The best thing to do is to ignore what’s going on if you are the one being bullied, and also to not encourage it if you are witnessing it.” Hopefully, celebrities affected by internet bullying will set an example for others being victimized by the same problem.