Saturday morning, as D. and I were watching our normal slate of college football, I checked CNN's website to see what was happening in the world around us.
I read about Megan Meier. At first I was shocked, and a little curious. So I did some research, and read some more.
My shock quickly bled in horror, sadness and eventually, anger.
If I were Megan's parents, I'm not sure I'd be able to restrain myself to damaging a foosball table and their lawn. If any adult did that to my child, there's a strong possibility that I'd react in a far more passionate way. To that end, I admire the Meiers' restraint and dignity.
A little over a year ago, Megan Meier, an eighth grader from a small town near St. Louis, seemed to have a bright future. Despite battling depression over her weight, she had just transferred to a new school, was playing for her school's volleyball team, and was losing weight. Her mother, after multiple pleas from Megan, allowed her nearly 14 year-old daughter to have a MySpace account. However, Mrs. Meier (Tina) insisted that she, not Megan, set the password, and she faithfully and carefully monitored her daughter's access to the site - including who Megan added as friends.
Around this time, Megan had a falling out with another 13 year-old girl, who lived a few doors down. Megan and Sarah had been good friends, as had their families, for a few years. In fact, Tina, Megan's mom, helped the Drew family purchase their house, and Megan had vacationed with the Drew family. They were well aware of her issues with depression, and the fact that she received counseling and took prescription drugs for the same.
13 year-old girls fight all the time. Generally, given the hormones coursing through the veins of a teenaged girl, lightswitch friendships are common. One day, you're BFF. The next day, you're mortal enemies. Megan was trying for a fresh start, and recognizing the need for stability in her life, severed ties with Sarah.
A few weeks later, Megan received a message from a boy named Josh on MySpace. He was cute, had just moved to the area, and thought Megan was pretty. He was looking to make friends in the area, and asked to be added to her friend list. Tina thought carefully about it, and hesitantly allowed her daughter to add Josh. For six weeks, Megan would rush home from school to message back and forth with Josh. While Tina was pleased that her daughter seemed so happy, something nagged at her, telling her that Josh was too good to be true.
So she called the local police to see if there was a way to verify that this person was real. The police pointed out that there was little they could do, so she continued to monitor the situation. Megan, on the other hand, was beginning to trust Josh, confiding fears and hopes and secrets to him. She was so excited about their burgeoniong relationship, she was hoping to invite him to her 14th birthday party.
A few days later, she received a message from Josh, telling her that he didn't know if he wanted to be her friend, because he had heard she was mean to people. Devastated, she messaged back frantically that she didn't know what he was talking about. In the meantime, Josh forwarded her private messages to former classmates of hers, and bulletins about Megan's secret thoughts began flying around MySpace. Josh continued to send cruel, callous messages to the vulnerable teen. Megan was understandably upset and confused. Her mother, running late to take Megan's sister to the orthodontist, made her promise to sign off MySpace shortly. Megan promised she would.
When Tina returned home, Megan was still on MySpace, combatting her classmates and Josh with explicit language and anger. Tina chewed her out about disobeying her, and Megan started crying, expressing that she should be on her side. Megan ran upstairs, and ran into her dad, who told her not to worry about what others thought of her, because it clearly showed that they didn't know her. 20 minutes later, Tina, with a sense that something was wrong, found her daughter hanging in her closet, tears running from her eyes. Her father, Ron, found the following message still up on MySpace:
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.
Megan died the next day. Her parents were devastated. And Josh? His profile was deleted. He disappeared, seemingly not knowing the power his words had had. Because his profile was deleted, so too were the messages he had sent Megan.
Sarah's family, the Drews, came to the wake and the funeral. The Meiers attended Sarah's birthday party, leaving in tears when Sarah's friends started singing "happy birthday" to her. After all, their little girl should have been turning 14. The Meiers even stored a Christmas gift, a foosball table, for Lori Drew, Sarah's mother.
6 weeks after Megan's death, a counselor contacted the Meiers and set up a meeting with another parents. The parent had just learned that her daughter knew about Josh.
There was no Josh.
Josh was invented by Lori Drew, Sarah's mother, in an effort to see what Megan was saying about her daughter after the falling-out. She allegedly intended to gain Megan's trust and then humiliate her for upsetting her daughter. Her daughter and an employee of her advertising business had access to the MySpace account, and they apparently enjoyed pulling this prank on Megan. Lori and Sarah shared the joke with another neighbor's daughter, the same neighbor who contacted the Meiers once she learned from her daughter what had transpired. The neighbor also recounted that Lori had called her daughter the night Megan hanged herself, warning her to keep her mouth shut about the prank.
The Meiers, devastated beyond belief, tore into the foosball table with an ax. They piled the pieces back into the box, spray-painted "Merry Christmas" on it, and left it on the Drews' driveway. The Drews responded by filing a criminal complaint. The Meiers were told to keep quiet while law enforcement investigated what had happened with the MySpace hoax. When they were told the Drews had done nothing wrong, they went public with their story, nearly a year later.
Lori Drew admitted in a police statement to her involvement, but according to the report, "Drew felt this incident contributed to Megan's suicide, but she did not feel 'as guilty' because at the funeral because she found out 'Megan had tried to commit suicide before.'"
Sick, no? I certainly think so, and this story has legs. When the local paper reported on the full story last week, they chose not to identify the Drews. It took a few enterprising bloggers very little time to find the name of the family involved and to urge public shunning. CNN and FoxNews have reported on the story.
Here's the thing - Megan wasn't the only victim here. Her parents, unable to cope with the loss of their child, are divorcing. Sure, Lori Drew didn't force Megan to commit suicide, but she knew Megan battled depression and viciously retaliated when Megan ended her friendship with her daughter. I'd expect such behavior from a teenaged girl, since I was on the receiving end of some bullying when I was Megan's age. But such behavior from an adult is utterly reprehensible.
The more I think about this, the more disgusted I am...especially when I read things like this.
At the end of the day, I worry about the mob mentality I've read on some blogs about this topic. But I have to believe there's a civil action that can be taken, whether in the form of an IIED lawsuit, or what the Meiers themselves are doing - trying to get the law changed.
Awareness of the new frontier of bullying - cyberbullying - is important. Megan's story is a cautionary tale, and one full of so much sadness and pain.
No charges were filed against the Drews.