because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

When Hashtags Take You to Dark Places

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The Twitterverse is usually a wonderful place.

Except when it’s not.

The other day I was looking for conversations about #teachers, and this post caught my eye:

I couldn’t help but reply:

I was trying to be funny.

Fayth didn’t think it was funny.

She read me the riot act.

She told me to stay out of her business.

Instead, I went and read her profile.

So I learned that Fayth is Faith.

And that she currently weighs 91 pounds.

But.

Her goal weight is 75 pounds.

Let me give you some perspective.

My son, Tech Support, is in 7th grade.

He is 5’3″ and weighs in at a whopping 88 pounds.

(He is like a walking skeleton. For reals. The kid is all elbows and knees.)

Anyway, I got worried.

The more I poked around, the more I could see that Fayth was struggling: with school and self-image. She admitted to cutting herself.

Something else was troubling Fayth, too. But she wouldn’t share, even when we shifted to direct messaging.

Fayth shares some disturbing images on her Twitter page. Pictures of her hipbones. Her ribs. Blood in a styrofoam cup. The food she eats (puffed wheat and diet cranberry juice). Directions about the fast she was on.

I tried to tell her that her photos and her words caught my attention.

That she scared me.

We private messaged for a little while.

She shared so little.

She is used to withholding.

I did lots of typing.

For a few days, Fayth disappeared from Twitter altogether.

But the other day, I saw this post:

So now I know this high school student weighs less than my son.

And today, I saw this:

I let her know I’m still here.

If she needs someone to rant to, there’s a stranger who cares.

Honestly, I don’t know what to do with this information.

I wish I knew where Fayth/Faith lived because I would drive over to her house and sit on the floor with her. I would be quiet and let her cry. Or not cry. She could be mad if she needed to be mad. But I would do my best to get her to whisper whatever her big scary thing is. Even if it meant telling her my biggest, scariest thing. Someone needs to pay attention to this smart girl who is doing dangerous things. To this young woman who is too tiny to wear a size 00. To the pretty young woman in the  baggy clothing. To the beautiful young woman who just got her hair straightened and spends all her time counting calories.

Because she isn’t going to be here for long if someone doesn’t help her find her broken places so she can repair herself.

And it is possible to fix yourself if you’ve got the right tools in the tool belt.

It is.

Do we have any responsibilities to each other on social media? Or do we just shrug our cyber shoulders?

113 thoughts on “When Hashtags Take You to Dark Places

  1. Oh my goodness, Renee. That is really hard. It is so kind of you to extend yourself, and that’s probably all you can do. I’m sure it makes a difference to her to know she’s not alone. Faith has a very sad story, indeed. I can understand your desire to help her in some way. It sounds like you are doing everything possible. So sad.

    1. Jen, I tried really hard to do SOMETHING. You know, Twitter is public so it seemed very much like a cry for help. All these young girls with eating disorders have been attacking in droves — I haven’t allowed their comments to go through, but I know you know what that feels like. You start to question yourself.

      I never meant to hurt this girl. Only to try to open a little dialogue. But when I showed her the post, she freaked out (as i suspected she would) and cut off all contact with me.

      I really was trying to reach out.

      Maybe some day she will see that.

      In the meantime, I just hope she gets help.

  2. […] night, Renee Jacobson, in When Hashtags Take You to Dark Places recounted a conversation she had pursued on Twitter with a 15-year old anorexic teenager who […]

  3. I had something similar happen, Renee. The last time I got Freshly Pressed I got all kinds of comments from new readers, mostly fun and complimentary – you know how that goes. But one was a page-long, semi-incoherent ramble about suicide from a young man. He seemed to be heading down that road. He didn’t have a blog, but you have to give your email address to post comments on WordPress.

    I debated what to do. I decided NOT to post his comment. I emailed him on the side and gave my real name. I said I didn’t know if he was goofing around or if this was a real cry for help, but please talk to someone. I tried to convey that all of us are precious to God, and ended up asking him to email me if he wanted to talk. I never heard from him. I keep that comment in my “comments pending approval” file and sometimes look at it and wonder if it was a real cry for help, and if I could have done more.

    There are a lot of sad and lonely people out there. I guess all we can do is our best, and it sounds like that’s what you did.

    1. I WISH there there was some way to really get in touch with this girl, especially since I told her that I wrote the piece about her and sent her the link. I felt I owed her that, as I didn’t want her to just come across it. Alas, she has blocked me from her feed — which is what I feared she would do.

      But there are so many girls like her out there.

      It’s positively heart-breaking.

      I will keep my FOLLOW button on, and if she ever wants to reach out, I’ll be here.

  4. Good for you trying to constructively engage – it may have made a difference even if you don’t know it.

    Encountering people over the web makes it even harder to assess them than in real life – (on the internet, no one knows I’m really a dog – and not a horse at all) – but I guess oneshould try to be as supportive as if one meets face to face.

    1. I’ve received a fair amount of hate mail for this blog post. It’s been difficult for me. As you have said, I was trying to show my concern, but a certain contingency of girls seems to think that the things you put out on social media should be kept private.

      Um, I have not allowed their comments to push through here because they are minors — or I assume they are — because as anyone knows, anything that one put on Twitter on the public feed is public.

      I was not trying to hurt this girl — who has already changed her name and identity and blocked me. On an up note, an attorney contacted me, telling me he was going to contact the girl’s parents and sue me for libel. As I said to him, PLEASE contact the girl’s parents. Nothing would make me happier. I would love for them to read some of her Tweets! I’ll worry about my own legal recourse later.

      Especially since I am confident that I did nothing wrong.

  5. I read this and cried. I cried for your heart. I cried for Faith. I cried for the little girl that I once was (eating disorder full-blown at age 8) who would have loved for someone like you to single me out for positive attention (don’t stop!). I cried for the big thing or things that I kept quiet (rape beginning at age three, being traded for drugs regularly at age 8 on…) and the big thing or things that girls everywhere keep quiet and instead take out on themselves (I still have the scars on my skin). I still struggle with my eating disorder, though I am 32 now and have lived many lifetimes. But you know what brings me joy and keeps me going? The most precious child in the world to me, my son, and making sure he grows up differently than I did… And using my work to reach out to kids who struggle and have no voices and need someone to speak for them. Keep fighting the good fight! <3

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