WHITBY – Paula Todd, author of Extreme Mean: Trolls, Bullies and Predators, a book about online bullying, stopped by the Whitby Public Library to discuss why she believes that even through the cyberbullying epidemic, there is still good left in the Internet.
“I’ve been a writer for 20 years and this is just so exciting,” says Todd as buzzing guests entered the lecture room.
Todd was there with Blue Heron Books on Thursday, June 18 to talk about her new book as part of a series of lectures presented by the Whitby Public Library.
In addition to being an author, Todd is also a lawyer, professor and journalist and became a household name when she was the first to locate the whereabouts of Karla Homolka.
Followed by this discovery, Todd herself became a victim of cyberbullying. She began to receive criticism from people who believed that tracking her down was wrong.
“I started to get hate mail telling me I was picking on Karla Homolka, the serial killer,” says Todd.
Two years in the making, Extreme Mean discusses cases of cyberbullying in all forms and severities.
According to The Canadian Red Cross, more than 49 per cent of students in Toronto junior high and high schools reported being a victim of cyberbullying.
As part of prevention, Todd stresses the need for improvement in education for both children and adults.
Todd says what we read online should not be ignored. She says that youth are being taught, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but in fact it is killing kids.”
A topic examined thoroughly was the Amanda Todd case (no relation to Paula) in which Paula unveiled new evidence supporting Amanda’s story. Amanda was a 15-year-old from British Columbia who was bullied excessively online and then committed suicide on October 10, 2012.
“We live in a bully nation,” says Todd. “Why are people so mean online? Because that’s how people are.”
Rebecca Black was just thirteen when her music video “Friday” was uploaded on YouTube in 2011. Receiving more than three million “down votes” and millions of negative comments, she quickly became one of the most ridiculed people on the Internet.
Todd discusses the mockery endured by Black and traumatic consequences that followed.
“The truth about Rebecca Black is that she was devastated. She was one of the most hated people on the Internet,” says Todd.
A common factor in online bullying is mental illness, in particular, depression.
In her book, Todd describes the battle between the two as a never-ending circle. She elaborates on the idea that the ultimate root of online bullying begins with depression. While online bullying has increased among youth, Todd also reveals that it has become a common trend with adults, who are acting on the same impulses of mental illness as their children.
“Mental illness drives you to the Internet and the Internet heightens mental illness,” explains Todd.
Commonly referred to as “trolls”, Todd calls Internet bullies “censors”. She believes that online bullies are silencing their victims from their rightful opinions.
Todd finished her lecture by saying that although she believes online bullying is “still in its infancy,” she thinks change is still possible to put a stop to it.
“We are going to take back the Internet, I know it,”