The Perils of Internet Dissociation.

A story out of the UK today details a horrible case of internet bullying/ trolling on the part of one Sean Duffy, aged 25, who would intentionally inflict emotional distress on grieving families by posting YouTube videos, comments, and photoshopped pictures onto deceased childrens’ Facebook pages, tribute web sites etc. to harass and taunt friends and families of the deceased. The Telegraph reports that Duffy even went out of his way to make pages for recently deceased children on Facebook, which he would then use to mock their families, as in a particular case in which a fourteen year old child died of an epilepsy attack. Duffy then created captioned photographs called ‘Lauren’s epifit’ as well as video of a coffin saying ‘Happy Mother’s Day.’ According to The Telegraph he ended this video with the text “I don’t know why you are all crying, it’s soaking down here.” Duffy did not know any of these children, and plead guilty to two counts of sending malicious communication. The judge in the case gave him the maximum sentence per count, 18 weeks, as well as requiring Duffy to register any internet capable items he has or would have in the future in addition to being proscribed from any interaction with social networks for the duration of his sentence and probation. In an unexpected revelation of fact, Duffy is 25, unemployed, has Asperger’s syndrome and lives what his counsel called a miserable existence at home. The Guardian reports that Natasha McBryde, one of Duffy’s targets, committed suicide after being bullied continually by a girl clique at her school. In a show of humanity, Natasha McBryde’s father Andrew showed compassion for Duffy, surmising that he was likely a lonely and sad individual who sought to inflict an interior condition on the exterior world in which he lived, even if he did so to people completely unconnected to his situation or life in general. The subject of bullying has been a hot topic for the past year or so with many people contributing anti-bullying PSAs and spots on network television. The real issue is not bullying, which has occurred since the dawn of time, but more to the point is the detachment the use of the internet causes when it comes to interaction with other humans. People over the internet are not regarded in the same way as someone in front of one’s face, which leads some sick individuals to exploit this gap for sadistic and self-gratifying ends. The internet is a powerful motivational tool and organizing platform, its anonymity allowing for the Arab Spring as well as exposure of societal wrongs that would have taken traditional media years, if ever, to unearth. Vested interests that come from interactions in a social world become different when lodged in the somewhat ephemeral realm of the internet. I do not have sympathy for Mr. Duffy. I am not as compassionate nor as understanding as Natasha McBryde’s father. When we live in a world where so many innocents are already being used, abused and tossed aside by society like so much garbage, it is even more disturbing to see someone intentionally amplifying this abuse for personal satisfaction. Trolling can be funny, and then it can be despicable. Mocking someone’s death is quite despicable because it is illustrative of a cognitive detachment from social living that is both psychotic and ill-purposed. Indeed, in many ways, by engaging in this behavior, Duffy not only ensured the perpetuation of his personal misery but also helped secure for himself a position in society as one of the wretched, or one unworthy of affection. In many ways I’m sure Mr. Duffy felt maligned and dejected by society, so his choice of exit was to further this dejection and thus deepen his isolation. Ultimately, regardless of personal statements to the contrary, each individual develops a sense of worth in that one values the continuation of one’s existence on this planet. Mr. Duffy, perhaps feeling cheated by his lot in life, chose to mock the tragic end of children. If going just on face value, we would rationally conclude that Duffy does not value social interaction in a real sense and probably has low self-esteem but have no doubt, Mr. Duffy values his existence. It is his inability to rationalize the existence and histories of others that have led to a detachment complex capable of mocking tragedy. It is dangerous to prognosticate without all the facts, but this is a sick individual indeed: one who values himself and his personal experience to the point that he feels ‘disenchanted’ or ‘robbed’ of something he felt duly entitled him to the extent that he is harming grieving families. Taking pleasure in torture, whether physical or emotional, is not a troll: that is a psychopath and he should be regarded as such. While I’m sure Mr. Duffy will receive remedial therapy for his behavior, there is no erasing such a horrible action from one’s past. I only wish the families the best in dealing with their grief. The distinction between trolling as an innocent act and psychopathic behavior needs to be delineated and the method of torture in this instance is not indicative of the innate evil of internet trolls but rather points to how something so powerful as the internet can become a tool for wrong in the hands’ of a malicious person.