YouTube white-knights a bullied teen

For Sharon O'Brien, a British teen who faced cyberbullying on Facebook, videobloggers have proven unlikely defenders.

Mar 3, 2020, 10:31 am*


Fruzsina Eördögh 

Fruzsina Eördögh

Earlier this week, strangers told Sharon O’Brien, a young teenager in the UK, that she should die. Some called her “ugly,” “fat” or a “slut.”

The YouTube community, famous for its cruel comments, rose above its reputation and swiftly came to the defense of the young girl being publicly flogged on Facebook and Twitter.

The teenager had her Facebook wall flooded with tens of thousands of hateful comments after risqué photos of her clad only in underwear were allegedly released by a jealous ex-boyfriend. (O’Brien’s precise age isn’t clear, but we’re assuming she complies with Facebook’s requirement that users be 13 or older.)

Within hours, dozens of Facebook pages mocking O’Brien popped up, with titles like “Donate money to buy sharon o’brien some clothes“ and “Wanking over Susan Boyle because Sharon O’brien wasn’t worth it.”

O’Brien’s fame quickly escaped the confines of Facebook. She became a trending topic on Twitter in the UK, before briefly trending worldwide.

On YouTube, 37 videos tagged “Sharon O’Brien” have weighed in on the O’Brien controversy. (There are also a handful not tagged with O’Brien’s name.)

The bullying occurred during England’s Anti-Bullying Week, leaving many to wonder if the whole thing was a hoax. The Anti-Bullying Alliance quickly denied any role in concocting the incident, but that didn’t stop other rumors from spreading.

There was an unsubstantiated claim that O’Brien had killed herself.

lisalouxoxo wondered if the whole thing was a media stunt, but called the cyberbullies “absolutely disgusting” and told them directly, “you should be ashamed of yourselves.”

Some made claims without offering proof: MaryJonas123 told viewers that O’Brien had hung herself in her video, while a shirtless James1griffo said the event was a “scam” done for Anti-Bullying Week.

FmyLife4lulz noted that the Facebook comments from women were way worse than those from men, though some women did defend O’Brien as opposed to the men who just wanted to “sex” her, as FmyLife4lulz put it.

Twins Keith and Kevin Hodge weren’t sure if it was a hoax “to show cyberbullying is a big deal,” but added “I don’t know if a real 14 year old can handle all that shit” before discussing the hateful “ginger” comments and how it relates to the black community’s racism against itself.

The most popular vlog on the subject was from a YouTuber named T-Jay, who goes by sexaypartay on YouTube. Titled  “Cyber Bullying & Sharon O’Brien Photo Humiliation,” his video has been viewed 175,000 times since being uploaded on Nov 14. His video jumped to the 4th most popular video in the People & Blogs section on YouTube, from 8th yesterday.

Over nine and a half minutes of video, T-Jay struggles with trying to understand the public’s reaction.

“What struck me about this was the ferocity of people’s abuse,” he said, recounting how he watched the negative comments jump from roughly 2,000 to 7,000 in 15 minutes, and how one mocking Facebook group collected 10,000 people in under an hour.

People were “shouting abuse at this girl … basically slandering this girl, calling her disgusting,” he said.  “That’s an insane amount of people telling that girl she needs to die, she’s a slut, she’s fat, she’s ugly. How can you justify that? Do you have any idea what that does to a person?”

T-Jay also didn’t understand what the “humiliation spectacle” was about, as the photos didn’t show any nudity — they “were no worse than a bikini photo.”

CuteBecki100 echoed some of T-Jay’s thoughts on the matter, saying, “I don’t see how a bikini is any different than a bra and knickers…you’re showing the same amount of flesh.”

MrsBuzzLightYearrr, in her vlog simply titled “Slut.,” also didn’t get what the big deal was: “You have billboards everywhere of pictures of girls in their underwear… same as a bikini.”

Noticing the trend on YouTube, one YouTuber decided to capitalize on the moment.

MaxJohnsonTv echoed viral-video star Chris Crocker’s out-of-control weeping about Britney Spears in his own version, titled  “Leave Sharon O’Brien Alone.”

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*First Published: Nov 17, 2011, 7:38 pm