Although cyberbullying takes place in the digital realm, its effect on people is very real and can be devastating. To prove this, look no further than the tragic death of 19-year-old college student Alyssa Funke. Funke took her own life last month after a sex video of her surfaced online and relentless cyberbullying ensued.
Funke was a straight-A college student at the University of Wisconsin River Falls. She was majoring in biology and had dreams of one day becoming an anesthesiologist. In March, Funke decided to make a video with the porn site CastingCouch-X. Shortly after the video was published, she started receiving insulting and degrading messages online.
“Wow you’re a thot,” one person tweeted to her. Thot is another word for slut.
Another wrote: “Nothing brings a school together like a porn star who graduated last year. I guess you could say news spreads fast here at Stillwater hahah.”
Online, Funke seemed unfazed by the insults. She posted one tweet saying “Famous for dayzzzzzzz” and another proudly saying “Pornstar status.”
She also posted a status on Facebook directed at those who spent their time criticizing her.
“The people that envy & hate you the most, stalk you on social media the most so, hey hi hello how r u doing, this ones for you,” she wrote.
The criticism obviously affected her more than she let on publicly. On April 16, just one day after her “Famous for days" tweet, Funke purchased a shotgun and took her life.
The Washington County, Wisconsin Sheriff’s Department is currently investigating her death. They have not yet said if they believe cyberbullying contributed to Funke’s decision to take her life.
Though her family declined to speak extensively with the media, they adamantly believe bullying was the driving force behind the decision. The local media story covering Funke’s death has received quite a bit of criticism too, as it chose to focus more on the girl’s decision to make a porn video than on the people who – quite literally – bullied her to death.