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Username: Hater
Kiara Ventura

An unidentified person terrified my friends and me. Her words were anonymous and cruel, and she even made us worry for our lives. This person was a cyberbully.

My friends and I wanted to end the 8th grade in style. We didn’t want to be just the nerdy girls in the honors class—we wanted to be stars. So my friends Mosammat and Thini decided we should perform in the talent show. It was a way to achieve school fame, and an adventure we could go through together.

We recruited a few more friends—there were seven of us in total—to perform an Indian dance, and began preparing four months before the big day. Mosammat and Thini knew most of the steps and taught them to the rest of us during lunch and after school. We would always laugh and joke during practice, and the stage soon felt like home.

Every day, we caught people peeking in the auditorium windows, looking interested. Soon, news of our plans started buzzing in the hallways, and we began to get positive feedback. We felt so supported; our dream of being known as performers was already starting to come true. But then trouble started.

‘I’m Going to Hurt You’

An unidentified person, whose username was “hoehoehoe91,” began IMing my friend Frances, saying threatening things like, “I’m going to hurt you with a knife.” Every time this person threatened Frances, she would tell all of us about it during lunch.

Soon, the threats were coming at all the girls in our dance group, as well as other girls in our class. She (I’ve always assumed it was a she, because the boys barely knew any of our business and seemed unlikely to get involved) would curse at us and call us names. For those of us in the talent show, it was clear that she wanted to wreck our performance and our self-esteem. She even threatened to attack us after the show.

As this was happening, we never used the word “cyberbullying.” I’m not even sure you could call it bullying, since it was one person instigating something against a whole group. Maybe it was more like cyberdrama. But whatever it was, it wasn’t fun. Some girls were straight up terrified. Others just brushed it off, assuming nothing would really happen. I felt like this person was just jealous, and tried to ignore her.

The first time the mystery person contacted me, it was mid-February. I was on my laptop, chatting with friends on AIM, when suddenly I got a message from hoehoehoe91. She kept going on about how the talent show was going to be a disaster for us. I simply said, “Stop being so jealous. I am going to block you now.” Then I took the mouse and clicked “Block hoehoehoe91.” Her nasty comments didn’t really bother me, but they did affect the focus of our dance group and cause suspicion in our class, since everyone was wondering who this person was.

For months, she continued to message the other girls who hadn’t blocked her. Some of them IMed back-and-forth with her and tried to tell her off. It was a little creepy because she knew secrets about us, details about our relationships, and things from way back in 6th grade, but we still couldn’t figure out who she was. Eventually, one of our friends told his mom what was going on and the school got involved. One day over the announcements, my friends and I were called to the principal’s office.

Help From the Higher-Ups

As I stepped into the office, I inhaled the smell of fresh coffee. My friends and I all sat at a round table with the principal and a counselor and gave each other apprehensive looks.

“We’re here to address the cyberbulling incident,” the counselor said. “Tell me what’s been going on.”

We told her how this mysterious person had been threatening our whole class and especially the people performing in the talent show.

“Why didn’t you guys tell us earlier?” the counselor said.

“We didn’t think the situation would get this serious. Plus, cyberbullying is pretty typical these days,” I said.

image by Freddy Bruce

“Next time, tell someone. I would advise you not to reply to this unknown person, and if anything happens, contact me. You are a part of our school and it’s our responsibility to make sure you are safe.”

I felt a huge wave of relief as I walked out of the office, and my friends looked relieved, too. We felt safer knowing that we had the support of higher authorities.

The person continued to threaten us, saying, “Everything is going to go wrong on that stage” or even worse, “I’m going to jump you after the talent show.” But we all froze the bully out. We remained worried, but we knew that the show had to go on.

Curtains Up

After four months of practicing, it was time. Not only were we nervous about performing, we were worried about our safety after the show. Ours was the last act and as other students performed, we had mini panic attacks backstage.

But once we stepped onto the stage with bare feet, wearing saris (traditional Indian clothing) and bells, I felt beautiful and ready to conquer the world. We felt the wind of the stage curtains flowing open, and began to dance. During the performance our saris twirled in the air; our ankle bracelets jingled; we traveled along the stage to the rhythm of the music. We held our heads high, with smiles on our faces. We had the steps memorized perfectly, and nothing went wrong.

As the dance ended, I looked at my family members, who filled the whole second row. They cheered wildly, and from the whole crowd we got more attention than we expected.

Backstage, my father appeared.

“Here you go, Baby,” he said as he handed me a bouquet of flowers and kissed me on the forehead. “I’m so proud of you!”

“Oh my gosh! Thank you, Daddy!” I said, grinning. I felt so special.

Despite all the excitement, we were still worried about the threats. My mom drove me home, while my friends had school aides walk them home. It was funny to think that the school had provided aides to basically act as body guards for us. Thankfully, none of us encountered any trouble and that was the end of the messaging, too.

Bullies in Hiding

I believe this bully was a pure hater. She saw us working hard for the talent show, got jealous, and tried to distract us with threats. But we pushed our fears aside and gave our school a great show. In fact, we did so well that we got requests to perform at an elementary school, festivals, and a Sweet 16 party.

Even though we never found out who the mysterious cyberbully was, we did learn how to deal with her, thanks to our school. We saw that if we kept engaging her, it would continue. Blocking her kept her quiet. Having the school behind us also gave us confidence about performing. If the principal hadn’t called us in to talk about the situation, we probably would have quit the talent show.

I think cyberbullying or cyberdrama occurs because people feel that their voice is more powerful online. They can say whatever they want anonymously, without worrying about consequences. They hide behind a screen and try to ruin your life.

But instant messaging and social networks are supposed to help people communicate, not bully one another. I think people should remember that, and if they have a problem with someone, deal with it like old timers and talk to them face-to-face.

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