There's no escaping it. When used wrongly, the internet can be a destructive and terrible place.
The family of Tiziana Cantone is learning that lesson the hard way, as reports emerge that the 31 year old took her own life after enduring months of social media taunts and ridicule over a leaked sex tape.
In the spring of 2015, Tiziana sent a video of herself and anther man engaging in a sex act to an ex boyfriend.
Her ex shared the video to WhatsApp and soon, the footage began to make its way onto various social media platforms--eventually earning meme status. People parodied the intimate video, took screenshots, and passed them around online until Tiziana's image was well known to Italian internet culture.
And it wasn't just fringe online media as well. Tiziana was lampooned by mainstream establishments and celebrity figures. We won't be sharing any of those memes here out of respect to what Tiziana was fighting to put behind her.
She recently won a legal case that would force Facebook to remove all the horrible abuse she had been receiving but, inexplicably, was ordered to pay the legal costs for her ongoing battle to reclaim her identity.
This month, Tiziana was found dead by her mother who she had been staying with while she tried to move forward from this ordeal.
As news of Tiziana's death has spread, people have taken to social media to express their thoughts on the entire situation.
Non riesco nemmeno a trovare parole per commentare il suicidio di Tiziana Cantone, perché riapre ferite che ancora non si erano rimarginate.— A girl has no meme (@conamorechiara) September 13, 2016
I can't even find words to comment on the suicide of Tiziana Canton, because it reopens wounds that still had not healed.
A distanza di tempo da questo articolo, si è suicidata. La colpa è anche di chi ha diffuso meme e puttanate varie. https://t.co/nKwe78fyMO— José Arcadio Buendía (@JoArBuendia) September 13, 2016
[...] The blame is also for those who spread the meme and bullshit.
Anybody involved in the exploitation of Tiziana Cantone in any way, whether that's a meme shared or "souvenir" produced ...— Miles (@mileslivingsto) September 16, 2016
... then you ought to be fucking ashamed— Miles (@mileslivingsto) September 16, 2016
Tiziana's death is a stark reminder that the internet is not somehow divorced from the real world. When you participate in things that you know will have a damaging effect on someone's mental health, you're directly contributing to whatever the outcome may be.
If you're someone who believes that online misogyny has no real world impact, I implore you to think twice about that view point.