A 16-year-old Florida girl has become the latest teen to kill herself after being incessantly bullied on social media sites.
Jessica Laney of Hudson apparently hung herself on Sunday night. The Fivay High School soccer player spent considerable time on social media sites like Tumblr and Ask.fm, where a friend told ABC Action News that she was often bullied.
On Ask.fm, where users can anonymously ask and answer questions, someone asked Laney, "Can you kill yourself already?" Other users taunted the girl and called her "fat," "slut" and a "loser." Another wrote "nobody even cares about you."
"She was constantly bullied and bullied," friend Valeria Canales told ABC. "And she was pushed and pushed to the point where she couldn't handle it anymore."
Canales said Ask.fm "needs to be shut down."
Laney also used social media to anguish about her life. "My brother and I don't talk anymore," she wrote earlier this month. "My dad, yeah he ignores me like I don't even f****** exist. I have almost no friends I actually trust. My mom bitches at me for the littlest things. I am basically all alone."
Still, the teen struck an optimistic tone. Responding to a question about suicide, she wrote:
"If you ever feel this low I just wanna say it's not your fault. I know you feel useless, broken, not wanted and alone. I was there. But I promise you it will get better."
"You will get through the endless pain I promise school will be over soon and you can get away from the judgmental f***s. Nothing is worth it; it will all get better."
A spokesperson for the Pasco County Sheriff's Department said that police were unaware of any bullying and that neither Laney's parents nor boyfriend ever reported any abuse.
On Tuesday, students at Fivay High School played soccer and wore purple in honor of Laney. A Facebook memorial page has also been set up. Ironically, students took to social media to praise the girl and express their sorrow.
"You're the most beautiful person I kno I will miss and luv u forever, wrote Lacey Love Wilson.
But even in light of the girl's death, some commenters criticized her for taking her own life, saying she will rot in hell. Such comments were quickly deleted.
Others used the forum to post a petition calling for Ask.fm to be shut down, while others defended the site.
Ask.fm has been implicated in the deaths of two bullied Irish teens. Ciara Pugsley, 15, from Leitrim and 13-year-old Erin Gallagher of Donegal both killed themselves within weeks of each other after being tormented on the site.
But Mark Terebin, founder of the Latvia-based site, said Ask.fm is "just a tool" and that those who blame it for bullying-related suicides are "knocking on the wrong door."
"Ask.fm is just a tool which helps people communicate with each other, same as any other social network, same as phone, same as piece of paper and pen," Terebin is quoted in the Irish Times.
"Don't blame a tool, but try to make changes," he continued. "Start with yourself. Be more polite, more kind, more tolerant of others. Cultivate these values in families, in schools."
"Mass media is knocking on the wrong door. It is necessary to go deeper and to find the root of the problem. It's not about the site, the problem is about education, about moral values that were devalued lately," he said.