Step 1: Make a Viral Video Step 2: Receive Death Threats

5 Phase Plan for Achieving Fame

  1. Make a Viral Video
  2. Television
  3. Singing Career
  4. Movies
  5. Magician

I came across this list from a Netflix series based on the fictional YouTube character “Miranda Sings”. This show is everything you love and hate about Napoleon Dynamite multiplied by 3 and concentrated into 30 minutes. But within the first 10 minutes of the episode, it revealed some sad truths about social media and cyber bullying. Miranda uploads a terrible rendition of “Defying Gravity” and within minutes receives hateful comments and backlash. She quickly modifies the “5 Phase Plan”:

  1. Make a Viral Video 1a. Receive death threats

We’ve seen it time and time again with people like Rebecca Black and Boxxy being ruthlessly bullied and threatened via Youtube comments. In Jon Ronson’s Ted Talk about Justine Sacco, he discusses how cyber bullies believed their actions were justified based on the nature of Sacco’s ignorant and racist tweet. But what did Rebecca Black and Boxxy ever do to receive the same exact reactions from the social media world? I don’t think it’s the content of the video/tweet that triggers people to react this way, I think it’s the power of anonymity.

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The anonymity of social media can be a powerful tool. Sitting behind a screen and projecting out thoughts that the entire world can see is much easier when your completely disconnected from your readers. If these same interactions were face-to-face conversations, I think it’s safe to say that most people wouldn’t react the same way. Imagine your sitting in Robsham Theatre and a fellow Boston College student is performing a song. They’re slightly unattractive, a bit tone deaf, and completely ddd626c9a2916182bad100387fa33b9aunaware of how they are perceived. Would you a) sit silent and just pray the performance was almost over b) laugh quietly to yourself and leave during the performance or c) loudly comment about the person’s appearance and start yelling death threats across the theatre. In reality, I think most of us would pick a, maybe b. But why on the internet does it feel like a majority of the world picks c? What happened to the phrase, “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all”?

Cyber bullying can have severe outcomes. Many celebrities such as Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato have spoken up against cyber bullying and have started campaigns to create awareness and support groups. After receiving hateful comments on his Instagram, Justin Bieber deactivated his account in August 2016. Immediately after that, people began mocking him for deleting his Instagram account. There’s really no way to win.

There are countless celebrities who are cyber bullied via social media. Anna Gunn (Skylar White from the series Breaking Bad) wrote a piece to The New York Times detailing her experience as an antagonist on the show. People created Facebook groups and fan pages about how much they hated Skylar White. At first, she understood the hatred as most people sided with Walter White, her fictional husband. However, these pages began to slowly divert from Skylar White and began projecting their hatred on to Anna Gunn herself. Fans of the show were unable to separate fiction and reality. Gunn ultimately realized that the hatred actually stemmed from people’s true feelings about women and wives and her inability to conform to the “archetypical female”.

Besides being frightened (and taking steps to ensure my safety), I was also astonished: how had disliking a character spiraled into homicidal rage at the actress playing her? – Anna Gunn

Girls laughing cyberbully.jpg

Cyber bullying is not only for the celebrity world. In fact, it’s more prevalent in the average person’s life. In an attempt to bring awareness to the situation, DoSomething.org released some statistics about cyber bullying.

Nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online. 1 in 4 has had it happen more than once.

81% of young people think bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in person.

 Only 1 in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse.

Girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims and perpetrators of cyber bullying.

Bullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider committing suicide.

Cyber bullying is still a very real issue. Most of the time, we are part of the problem without even realizing. Next time you post, tweet, text or comment, think about if you would do the same thing in-person.

11 comments

  1. Great post! Ronson’s talk did a good job of showing the extreme cases in which people are cyber bullied, but your article showed how much closer to home this problem is. I had no idea how many kids report being cyberbullied and hope that there are initiatives in the works to address the problem as social media continues to proliferate. Regarding your commentary on why people only seem to choose option c online, fear of being bullied by others who have chosen option c may lead to considerate people avoid discussions altogether.

  2. Interesting topic, that is very prevalent in today’s age of social media. Cyberbullying on social media is a topic that needs to be talked about, and is sometimes not discussed in today’s age. I had no idea the amount of people that got cyberbullied, and was shocked at some of the examples that you included. I hope the government keeps on finding ways and initiatives to help those victim on cyberbullying and to get rid of those who keep on doing it.

  3. Aditya Murali · ·

    Really interesting post. It is so horrifying to see the baseless hate and anger that is thrown at a celebrities way, and how carried away people can get, not realizing that these are other human beings they’re trying to bring down. Anna Gunn’s commentary is absolutely spot on, the idea that peoples anger with her was that she didn’t conform to the stereotypical female character. At the end of the day, since social media allows us to hide behind the scenes, people most likely feel like they can say anything without repercussions because they’re not saying it out loud, which has led to horrible things like cyberbullying.

  4. skuchma215 · ·

    I can’t believe people were sending Anna Gunn death threats! I understand her character on Breaking Bad was unlikable, but that’s terrible people couldn’t separate her character from her person or projected their hatred of women on her. I found the statistic that girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims and perpetrators of cyber bullying, especially since all the celebrities you mentioned were female.

  5. cmackeenbc · ·

    The internet is such a scary tool sometimes. I often think to myself “where on earth are these people coming from and who are they actually?” when I see a long list of hate comments on a public post. Are they people who are uneducated, angry, unwell, too young to know better? Or are they completely “normal”, even sitting next to me in class? The anonymity of social media (almost) totally releases the instigator from consequences, which is unnerving to think about–would everyone act this way if they did not have to claim their actions? I surely hope not. In this sense, I actually completely agree with the use of tools that companies such as Instagram and Google have rolled out to combat internet trolls and hateful language. As much fun as it might be to be famous, I cannot imagine what it must feel like to constantly see some of the awful things people have to say–especially when they really don’t know you at all. Overall really nice post, hoping this issue starts to decline as we continue cyberbullying education.

  6. holdthemayo4653 · ·

    Cyber bullying is an issue that continues to evolve and unfortunately I don’t see it stopping anytime soon. The stats you posted were overwhelming (but were a great contribution to the post). I agree that people feel the right and ability to be completely brazen with their opinion when they don’t need to look someone in the eye to express it. It would be very interesting to research the type of people that post these comments. I generally seem to think that they have some other unresolved issue. As you mentioned, they were reacting to Gunn’s role as a women and a wife. Their comments at her were really stemming from issues they have within themselves.

  7. Great post! Cyberbullying is unfortunately a terrible side effect of all the wonderful things that the Internet has to offer. The YouTube comments section is one of the nastiest spaces on the web, with people spewing out hateful, dangerous statements, while hiding behind a digital curtain. I do find it really discouraging that females are subject to much more bullying that men. It brought to mind a woman named Anita Sarkeesian, who makes YouTube videos talking about female portrayals in the media. Because of her work, she received death and rape threats…all because she wanted to challenge cultural concepts in a sophisticated and public manner. This was a few years ago, but I haven’t seen much improvement when it comes to this kind of harmful behavior. It’s a shame, and it doesn’t seem like we’re close to finding a solution to battle this.

  8. I came across this same series when I opened up Netflix earlier this week! I watched the two first episodes and have to admit I didn’t feel any desire to continue watching… definitely agree with the Napoleon Dynamite vibes although I think this series has a few more hints of satyrical feminism. I think what you mentioned about anonymity of the internet. I’ll agree that people have a heightened sense of confidence and aggression, but I wouldn’t totally call it anonymity. Something about sitting behind a computer screen makes people feel safe and disconnected from those they are attacking, but I think that should some sort of counter-cyber bullying system be put in place, it would be pretty easy to track these perpetrators. The tough part is walking the line between free speech and ant-hate protection. Awesome post!

  9. What an interesting angle to take on virality! I’m not sure if you watch Game of Thrones, but some of the actors have discussed how members of the public are incredibly rude to them. Some people just can’t seem to distinguish between a TV villain and normal person who happens to play an antagonist. **Spoiler alert…This reminds me of Jack Gleason, the 21 year old actor who played the tyrannical Joffrey Baratheon. Gleason shared that he would no longer pursue an acting career after his character died. This was in part due to the negative, hateful reactions he would receive from random people on the street and on the internet!** It really makes you think about how these actors and actresses who have played antagonists become victims of a way more magnified form of cyberbullying, which opens the door for greater conversation about similar trauma that doesn’t occur under a microscope.

  10. Great post! I think your points of data and your reference to Miranda Sings, a completely harmless and fake character really emphasizes the point about how fickle and serious cyber bullying is. I think it’d be interesting to see the other side of the spectrum, including how many people have actually cyber bullied someone or better yet, people who have cyber bullied but do not realize it. Cyber bullying reflects very similarly to thinking something in your head or saying something behind someone’s back. You feel less threatened from confrontation and you are less cautious about it. In turn, coupled with mob mentality, cyber bullying has grown into a huge epidemic today. What do you think the future of cyber bullying will be? More and more people will be online, but new campaigns will form against cyber bullying. Will it continue to grow into a larger problem or will it eventually plateau?

  11. Great Post! Cyberbullying is a very real issue, and something that unfortunately comes along with the internet. It is very interesting how differently people act under the veil of anonymity. The things people find it appropriate to do vary greatly with the consequences they could face personally. It is particularly remarkable when someone famous like Anna Gunn gets bullied on the internet. People think that merely because she is successful and famous their comments are not as hurtful to the actual person. In reality, seeing hateful comments posted by even anonymous strangers can have a very real effect on someones happiness.

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