How a girl named Nicole with hundreds of friends…got a text one day…that unleashed a nightmare…trashed on Facebook…tormented by texts…her life falls apart….But wait! Here’s the whole incredible story.
It was supposed to be a night of fun with friends. Nicole Edgington was celebrating her 17th birthday at a concert. The music was blaring and the band was rocking. But then the texts started coming in. “Whore,” “slut,” and “scared snitch.” Other messages were even fouler.
Horrified, Nicole sent out a slew of texts to find out what was going on. “Some friends told me there was a secret plan to attack me at an In-N-Out Burger,” Nicole tells Choices. “The plan was to attack me and slam my head into cement.”
Thankfully, the physical attack never happened. But a different sort of attack had begun on Nicole’s life: assaults using texts and Facebook. Her tormenters never broke her bones or spilled her blood, but the terrifying experience devastated her.
Fateful First Day
On the first day of Nicole’s senior year of high school in Pleasanton, California, some students got in trouble for coming to school drunk. Nicole had nothing to do with the incident, but unbeknownst to her, the busted kids wrongly accused her of turning them in to school authorities. “I wasn’t aware that I was being blamed until about two weeks later,” Nicole says. That’s when she found out about the secret plan to attack her.
After the plan to attack her failed, the texting and Facebook campaign against her went into full force. “I received hundreds of threatening texts and messages,” says Nicole, now 19. “I was shocked that people were blaming me for something I didn’t do. I was terrified of the threats, and I was humiliated that the school was turning against me.”
So many students sent Nicole mean messages that she couldn’t get a fix on who the ringleaders were. She was able to narrow it down to a group of 50 seniors. “They made my life a nightmare,” she says.
Nicole’s tormenters bombarded her. Vicious texts greeted her when she checked her phone at the mall. Taunting words mocked her from the screen when she opened her Facebook page from the privacy of her home. The sight of classmates talking among themselves in the cafeteria during lunch made herparanoid. “Are those kids at the next table whispering about me?” she’d nervously ask herself. “Or are they the ones texting me?”
“I always had my phone with me, and that made it impossible to escape from the horrific messages I was receiving,” Nicole says.
What made matters worse was that the bullying ruined her social life, much of which had been run through texting and Facebook. “Prior to being cyberbullied, I was almost always on my phone or on Facebook,” Nicole says. “I socialized with friends via electronics when I wasn’t with them. I never expected that technology would become my worst nightmare.”
Instead of chatting with friends about TV shows and weekend plans, Nicole was reading one put-down after another—all directed at her. She tried defending herself by responding to texts and Facebook posts, but that just led to more insults from others. The barrage battered her feelings of self-worth. “I began believing what people were saying about me,” Nicole says.
She also felt helpless. Her parents contacted the school, but officials weren’t prepared to help. “At that point, the school didn’t have a specific plan on how to react to cyberbullying, so they just offered condolences for what was happening,” Nicole says.
A couple of close friends stuck by her, but she lost trust in many others who were involved in spreading rumors about her.
But as her cell phone continued to vibrate with awful texts, an idea came to Nicole: She could stop this by controlling people’s access to her.
She deleted her Facebook account. She vowed to ignore mean texts. That was difficult, but not responding became easier than trying to argue with bullies who were never going to stop harassing her. And Nicole figured out how never to read a hateful text. “I know who is likely to send me something hurtful, so when I see that a message is from one of those people, I delete it before reading it,” she says.
But ignoring the bullying wasn’t enough. By then, Nicole’s mother was so horrified about her daughter’s ordeal that she began educating herself about cyberbullying. Shawn Edgington spoke at schools about the issue, but soon realized that kids wanted to hear about cyberbullying from a teen.
Would Nicole want to be that teen? She jumped at the opportunity. For her, there was no better way to get even with her tormenters than by telling the world what she had endured and what she had learned. Nicole would be helping other teen victims of cyberbullying.
Shawn formed the Great American NO BULL Challenge, with Nicole as the campaign’s spokesperson. Speaking to kids about her cyberbullying experience has been healing for Nicole.
“This has allowed me to stop running from my past,” Nicole says. “Instead of letting others tear me down, I’m able to live my life to the fullest while inspiring others to do the same. I am seeing how powerful it can be to stand up to cyberbullies.”
Today, two years later, those kids who bullied Nicole still have not been silenced. A few have taken jabs at Nicole for speaking out against cyberbullying. But there was recently a moment when one of her tormenters expressed regret.
“The message wasn’t sent to me, because I had the person blocked,” Nicole says. “A friend told me that she received a message from someone who wanted to apologize.”
Nicole’s reaction? “I instantly felt relief,” she says. “To finally, after all this time, hear someone say they were wrong in accusing me of doing something I didn’t do was amazing. It made me feel like my world was one step closer to being in balance again.”
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