When I was much younger I used to get a lift to school, and three of us girls would have to sit next to each other in the back of the car.
To say one of those girls was a pincher would be an understatement. Every single day my arms and legs would be a target for her fingers and nails until, one day, and to my eternal gratitude, she changed schools.
There was nothing I could do about it. Pinching her back made it worse. I can’t remember if I told my mum – probably. She’s not one to let things like that slide, so I expect if I told her, she’d have had a word. Either way it didn’t make the blindest bit of difference.
It was frustrating. Not to mention painful. But it ended as soon as I got out of the car, and didn’t stop me from living my life.
In fact, as I’ve been writing, it’s taken me until this far into the column to remember her full name.
So I can’t imagine what it must be like to be bullied all the time. To have vile comments put on social networks, aimed at causing maximum damage. To see those comments on a laptop or a mobile phone, while sitting in what should be the sanctuary of your own home.
And then to have to endure those comments so much, so often, that the only thing you can think to do to possibly escape the taunting is to give the bullies what they want and to kill yourself?
That’s what happened to Hannah Smith, a beautiful schoolgirl who took her own life following systematic harassment and abuse on the ask.fm social networking website.
Online bullies are called trolls, and they do indeed represent all that’s ugly about the internet.
Typically cowards, the keyboard warriors would run whimpering and snivelling for the hills if they were ever confronted in real life. That’s the real tragedy here – that someone took their own, precious life because of a few moronic individuals with nothing better to do.
I’m glad the social network’s owners have said they’ll help police track down those responsible, and I hope we get the chance to see them in court – and tell them exactly what we think of them to their actual faces.