The Internet Can KillPrologue
Bullying, murder and cannibalism-the online world is no playground; it mirrors our flesh-and-blood world in all its danger and ugliness. A series of recent tragedies and their ongoing legal developments remind us of just that.
Megan Meier, a blossoming 13-year old from a Missouri suburb, committed suicide after a jealous neighbor's mother allegedly masqueraded as a courting teenage boy and feuded with her on MySpace.
Rachelle Waterman, then 16, blogged about her difficulties with her mother on a remote Alaskan island. When she complained to her ex-boyfriends, the two older men lent a hand by killing her mother, and implicated the teenager.
Kevin Ray Underwood explored the darkest recesses of his psyche on his blog. At 26, the Oklahoman acted on these black desires, abducting, killing and
raping a child-whom he was planning to eat.
Megan Meier: Girl Meets Boy, Loses Boy, Kills Herself
Hoping to quell her anxieties about her appearance and to avert a too-common adolescent obsession with image and attractiveness, Megan's caring, protective parents had moved her from her former middle school to a local Catholic school mandating uniforms and modesty. She flourished there. Long insecure about her weight, she joined the volleyball team and lost 20 pounds. If the scholastic switch had meant she had grown away from any old neighborhood friends, she was making new friends and looking forward to inviting them all to a big birthday party.
One friendly neighborhood family was the Drews. Megan and their daughter had been acquaintances, with an off-and-on-again friendship. The Drews even asked the Meiers to hide the kids' Christmas presents in their garage.
On October 16, 2006, just shy of that eagerly anticipated birthday, things went irrevocably wrong as a simmering feud came fatally to a boil. Josh and Megan were fighting on MySpace. He accused her of treating her friends poorly and saying horrible things about them. As she pressed for details, the squabble spread and drew in other teenagers on MySpace. Feeling attacked on all sides, Megan lashed out at her parents and stomped upstairs.
Twenty minutes later, sensing something may have happened, Tina Meier went upstairs to check on her daughter.
She found Megan in the closet. She had hanged herself with a cloth Old Navy belt-over a boy who in fact did not exist.