Parents in MySpace: disaster follows (potentially for the internet? See update below)

November 14, 2007 at 11:13 pm | In health, justice, media, MySpace, scandal | 5 Comments

My daughter told me about this story, and when I said that it must be some sort of fake “news,” she sent me the following link: St. Charles Journal – News – POKIN AROUND: A real person, a real death. Alas, it looks real enough (the “Pokin Around” part is a play on the columnist’s name, Steve Pokin).

I find this story so disturbing on so many levels that I don’t really want to go over it with commentary — I’m struck by the level of surveillance (and perhaps judgementalism) exercised by Megan’s parents, but admittedly I’m not a parent dealing with a teen who has issues like Megan’s. As for the rest, any sane person can draw their own conclusions. …Maybe, if your brain can handle it.

I’ll copy & paste relevant bits below, but I’d encourage interested readers to go to the story itself and follow the comments, which are also disturbing.

First, a quick synopsis: a 13-year old girl named Megan Meier, who was just days shy of her 14th birthday, commits suicide by hanging herself in her bedroom closet. The reason? She was being bullied by a “hot” 16-year old male, who had initially captured her heart on MySpace by making her feel valued, but who then turned on her. He cyberbullied her with taunts and finally told her that she was a horrible person who deserved to have a horrible life. After Megan’s death, her grieving parents learn that the “hot” 16-year old male was in fact a fictitious character created by the parents of one of Megan’s girl friends — a girl she had become estranged from. This girl — and her parents — can’t be named, apparently, not least because nothing can be decisively proven against them.

That’s the official story in skeletal form. There are other details that add to “understanding” the situation (perhaps), the setting, the timeline, and so on.

You read it and decide for yourself (read the comments, too — they’re part and parcel of the trauma). If it’s true, then… Well, then the barbarians aren’t at the gates, they’re well inside. Everything about this tale is weird.

A real person, a real death

His name was Josh Evans. He was 16 years old. And he was hot.

“Mom! Mom! Mom! Look at him!” Tina Meier recalls her daughter saying.

Josh had contacted Megan Meier through her MySpace page and wanted to be added as a friend.Yes, he’s cute, Tina Meier told her daughter. “Do you know who he is?”

“No, but look at him! He’s hot! Please, please, can I add him?”

Mom said yes. And for six weeks Megan and Josh – under Tina’s watchful eye – became acquainted in the virtual world of MySpace.


[Megan] loved swimming, boating, fishing, dogs, rap music and boys. But her life had not always been easy, her mother says.

She was heavy and for years had tried to lose weight. She had attention deficit disorder and battled depression. Back in third grade she had talked about suicide, Tina says, and ever since had seen a therapist.

But things were going exceptionally well. She had shed 20 pounds, getting down to 175. She was 5 foot 5½ inches tall.


Amid all these positives, Tina says, her daughter decided to end a friendship with a girlfriend who lived down the street from them. The girls had spent much of seventh grade alternating between being friends and, the next day, not being friends, Tina says.


And then on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006, Megan received a puzzling and disturbing message from Josh. Tina recalls that it said: “I don’t know if I want to be friends with you anymore because I’ve heard that you are not very nice to your friends.”


Why did he suddenly think she was mean? Who had he been talking to?

Tina signed on. But she was in a hurry. She had to take her younger daughter, Allison, to the orthodontist.

Before Tina could get out the door it was clear Megan was upset. Josh still was sending troubling messages. And he apparently had shared some of Megan’s messages with others.

Tina recalled telling Megan to sign off.

“I will Mom,” Megan said. “Let me finish up.”

Tina was pressed for time. She had to go. But once at the orthodontist’s office she called Megan: Did you sign off?

“No, Mom. They are all being so mean to me.”

“You are not listening to me, Megan! Sign off, now!”

Fifteen minutes later, Megan called her mother. By now Megan was in tears.

“They are posting bulletins about me.” A bulletin is like a survey. “Megan Meier is a slut. Megan Meier is fat.”

Megan was sobbing hysterically. Tina was furious that she had not signed off.

Once Tina returned home she rushed into the basement where the computer was. Tina was shocked at the vulgar language her daughter was firing back at people.

“I am so aggravated at you for doing this!” she told Megan.

Megan ran from the computer and left, but not without first telling Tina, “You’re supposed to be my mom! You’re supposed to be on my side!”


[After running to her room, while her parents stayed in the kitchen to chat, Megan hung herself.]


Later that day, Ron opened his daughter’s MySpace account and viewed what he believes to be the final message Megan saw – one the FBI would be unable to retrieve from the hard drive.

It was from Josh and, according to Ron’s best recollection, it said, “Everybody in O’Fallon knows how you are. You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you.”


[Now it moves from tragic to downright sordid:]

The day after Megan’s death, they went down the street to comfort the family of the girl who had once been Megan’s friend. They let the girl and her family know that although she and Megan had their ups and down, Megan valued her friendship.

They also attended the girl’s birthday party, although Ron had to leave when it came time to sing “Happy Birthday.” The Meiers went to the father’s 50th birthday celebration. In addition, the Meiers stored a foosball table, a Christmas gift, for that family.

Six weeks after Megan died, on a Saturday morning, a neighbor down the street, a different neighbor, one they didn’t know well, called and insisted that they meet that morning at a counselor’s office in northern O’Fallon.

The woman would not provide details. Ron and Tina went. Their grief counselor was there. As well as a counselor from Fort Zumwalt West Middle School.

The neighbor from down the street, a single mom with a daughter the same age as Megan, informed the Meiers that Josh Evans never existed.

She told the Meiers that Josh Evans was created by adults, a family on their block. These adults, she told the Meiers, were the parents of Megan’s former girlfriend, the one with whom she had a falling out. These were the people who’d asked the Meiers to store their foosball table.


According to Tina, Megan had gone on vacations with this family. They knew how she struggled with depression, that she took medication.

“I know that they did not physically come up to our house and tie a belt around her neck,” Tina says. “But when adults are involved and continue to screw with a 13-year-old – with or without mental problems – it is absolutely vile.

“She wanted to get Megan to feel like she was liked by a boy and let everyone know this was a false MySpace and have everyone laugh at her.

“I don’t feel their intentions were for her to kill herself. But that’s how it ended.”


The Suburban Journals have decided not to name the family out of consideration for their teenage daughter.

The mother declined comment.


Follow-up: I’m very sorry for the Meiers, but this sentence, from MySpace Prank Leads Teenager Girl to Suicide, makes me afraid, very afraid: “…Megan’s family wants that family to be held responsible for what they did, so they’re working with lawmakers to pass new legislation regulating the Internet.” I really don’t want the Tina Meiers of this world breathing down my or my children’s neck when we’re using what I hope will continue to be a free internet.

Social class on social networks: and style?

June 27, 2007 at 10:33 pm | In danah_boyd, facebook, health, ideas, MySpace, social_critique, social_networking, web | 7 Comments

danah boyd has a new article out called Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace, which everybody seems to be reading (and, looking at her blog, commenting on — two hundred comments and counting…) Basic thesis: facebook attracts more upwardly mobile college-bound types, while MySpace attracts non-college-bound, possibly declasse or lower-class or outcast-type kids.

I’m curious to know whether the design was the egg or the chicken here: I confess that MySpace pages look cluttered and messy to me, and I get weirded out by the fact that all sorts of applications (sound, video, music, whatever) start up when I click through to some pages. In other words, I have to let MySpace roll all over me, and that pisses me off (well, not really, but I’m like, Hey, can you let me decide when I want to hear your stupid music or see your movie?). I want my eyes to control everything first, and then I push the buttons (mouse & click the links), not lie there and think of England while some MySpaceling has its way with me.

So, does the style attract people who violate “nice” rules about tidy spaces and imaginary “protocol,” or is the style a result of people using MySpace in a really trashy way? Can the technology even have that sort of malleability? That sort of ability to respond? I don’t think so, which means that from where I’m sitting, MySpace design or style is “trashy” and non-eye-centered (non-controlling) first, and that therefore it attracts the more anarchic among us.

(I am exaggerating slightly when I describe myself as such a control freak in the above paragraph. Slightly. A bit.)

Tolerance for overflowing sensation, an ability to “live” with many people, in a tribe, vs in a more distilled fashion: I think that factors into things, too. Is it a class issue? Possibly, but there’re always exceptions to the rule. From boyd’s essay:

MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, “burnouts,” “alternative kids,” “art fags,” punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school.

Right here there’s a snag: this passage describes me pretty much to a “t” (except for the Latina/Hispanic part, although I was an immigrant). My parents didn’t go to college, thought it would be a waste of time for me to go, were surprised I bothered finishing high school — which I barely did, a year and a bit “early,” too often too stoned to know what was going on, but desperate to get out so I could get a job — waitressing, incidentally — and make enough money to move away from home. I purposely skipped my high school graduation, because you wouldn’t have caught me dead trying to be pretty and stupid in a prom dress or sucking up to some old fart handing out diplomas. (I even skipped my B.A. graduation at UBC, and the M.A., and when I finally did go to one of my graduations — the Ph.D. ceremony at Harvard — I grinned at the Dean handing me my sheepskin, but I had the worst migraine in the world: I was smiling through pain, lots of it… Analyze that!)

Would I have gravitated to MySpace then, had it been around?

I don’t think so. I think one of my problems was stimuli overload (which explains the self-medication with drugs), and it was important for me to get enough control over my environment so that I could shut things out because it was difficult for me to handle the intensity of sensation I experienced. Experience. To this day, I find it crushing to be with people all day long: it’s too much. I vant to be alone is the rallying cry not just of Swedish actresses. Too much to observe, to pay attention to, to modulate, choreograph, perform, and respond to: after a day with lots of people, I’m exhausted. MySpace is an onslaught of entire rooms-full of people talking all at once, like a bad high school day times 10. In comparison, I guess Facebook is like meeting over coffee. Mocha vanilla latte, frapped. Maybe that’s our class structure today.

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