Cyberbullying: How anonymous attacks changed me for ever - News - Gadgets and Tech - The Independent

Cyberbullying: How anonymous attacks changed me for ever

Caught in the web: Ellie Nudd was 17 when she joined a social networking site. She made a profile, and then her torment began

Ellie Nudd was a typical teenager, studying for A-levels in English, sociology and business in her hometown of Colchester. Now aged 21, she describes her younger self as “open and trusting”, someone who found it easy to make friends.

Soon after joining the social networking site Formspring at the age of 17, she recalls, all that changed: “At the time, it was the latest site; everyone at my school had it. It was one of those sites where you can make your profile public or private, and comments can be made anonymously or you can leave your name.”

She made a profile, which anyone could see. It was, she says, the start of a period of bullying that would scar her life for ever. “In the beginning, it was comments about my appearance. These were public comments that everyone could see: they wrote about how I looked, where I worked. They knew what car I drove, they knew everything about me.”

The scariest part, she reflects four years later, was “this was clearly [being done by] someone I knew, but I knew nothing about them”.

Video: 'The landscape of bullying has completely changed'

With the anonymity the site gave her abuser or abusers, Ellie had no way of knowing if it was a so-called friend or people she worked with. “It could have been anyone; it was obvious it was someone I was seeing every day.”

Over a period of months, Ellie adds, “it escalated to death threats. Towards the end, the messages were very aggressive and personal. They were kind of stalkerish too, pointing to other comments I’d made on a different networking site, or for instance if I drove over a bridge one day they would write, ‘Next time you cross that bridge, you’re going to crash.’ ”

Read more: Internet is 'lawless jungle too dangerous for children to use’, former government adviser warns

The impact on her life was devastating. “It followed me everywhere. I’m not saying [online bullying] is worse than any other kind of bullying, but if you’re being bullied face to face, you can at least get away from it at home.”

At the time, Ellie was “too embarrassed” to tell her family what was happening. “It sounds silly, but I felt like I must have done something wrong to deserve it. It is hard to say to someone, ‘I’m being bullied and I need help.’

“I didn’t tell my family for a long time, but my friends obviously saw the comments with their own eyes. It was difficult for them; at first, they would say ‘it’s just words’. But it’s not as simple as that. That was the most frustrating thing that everyone around me didn’t seem to understand.”

Ellie says the whole time this was going on she never engaged with the bullies, and yet they carried on. Why did she not just stop looking at the comments? Or leave the site altogether? “Because it was a public site, others could still see the messages being left. I had to keep looking at the site, I couldn’t stop. To tell a 17-year-old to stop using a social network, it’s not going to happen. For me, it was impossible. Weird as it sounds, I wanted to see it. Everyone else could read it; I wanted to see it, too.”

The reverberations of the abuse, Ellie recalls, were widely felt: “It really affected my concentration; there were times in class when I was very emotional and couldn’t focus. I couldn’t trust anyone.” She felt “frustrated” and “angry” that these people thought they could harass her with total impunity. “They knew they could get away with it.”

Finally, after several months of fearing for her life, Ellie went to the police. “They took over my profile, and for my own wellbeing they told me to stop using the site. Since then my account has been shut down.” Yet the police were never able to find out who was responsible. “In the site’s terms and conditions, it said [the owners] would release the names [of anyone making salacious comments], but because it was a foreign company [who owned the site], the British police couldn’t get any response from them.”

Even now, Ellie says, not knowing who was behind the cyberbullying “still influences the way I look at the world and how I view new people who come into my life”.

“Four years ago, I was very open to meeting new people, and I found it easy to talk to people and get to know them. Now I’m very closed off and guarded. I’ve got a very close circle of people around me, but I find it hard to trust and open up to new people.”

Ellie has just finished a degree in criminology and is about to start her master’s. She still uses social networking sites, but has learnt to keep them “really private”.

“Now I know exactly who is in my network. It is not something you ever really get over. It takes only seconds to type something on a computer, but for those on the other side it sticks with you for the rest of your life.”

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

    Retail Business Analyst - Retail-J

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

    Programme Test Manager

    £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

    Project Manager with some Agile experience

    £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week