The Internet Responds to Hannah Anderson's Every Move — But Should We?
On Thursday afternoon, Hannah Anderson made her first public appearance since she was rescued from her kidnapper, James DiMaggio, in the Idaho wilderness Saturday. The details of the kidnapping are still very speculative, but that hasn't stopped a host of spectators from commenting on her appearance, her degree of trauma, and exactly what role the 16-year-old played in her own kidnapping.
A similar reaction took hold in late July, when one of Ariel Castro's three abductees, Amanda Berry, made an appearance at a Cleveland music festival. "Party Time At Last!" screamed Radar Online , whilst commentators declared: "It seems to me she was enjoying it and is gonna use her ordeal to cash in."
Berry's crime was, essentially, drinking daiquiris and dancing "just" a few months after her ten-year abduction ended. For Anderson, it's her social media habit: Press reports took pains to point out that she (allegedly) visited social ask-and-respond site ask.fm "barely 48 hours" after her rescue, and immediately began answering questions from the public.
The person identifying as Anderson on last.fm evaded questions about possibly being raped (as is widely speculated), but spoke openly about her devastation over the loss of her mother and brother, and agreed that she hoped DiMaggio would "burn in hell."
In the wake of trauma, is the Internet an appropriate place for young people to share and process their experiences?
“This girl needs time to reflect upon things before she makes things public, and she may be very sorry about what she’s posting,” says Barbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with teens in Fairfield County, Conn.
She should be “setting up a support group, finding a safe place where she can talk with people,” Dr. Greenberg says...
The mother of a friend of Hannah’s confirmed to reporters that the posts were hers and said that her son had urged Hannah to take some of them down.
The article is peppered with phrases implying wrongdoing: "appropriate;" "should;" "may be very sorry." But exactly what is Anderson guilty of doing wrong in this situation? A close friend of the family killed and apparently tortured her mother and brother, and held Anderson hostage for a week with plans to murder her as well.
The most we can accuse Anderson of is taking the time to answer the questions that the media pressed her for in the first place.
Anderson is also being flamed for posting this "selfie" on ask.fm earlier this week.
Because she's grinning widely, and reports have emerged that she made 13 phone calls to DiMaggio the day of her abduction — not to mention her "handwritten note" that investigators found inside the home where her family's bodies were found — the implication is that Anderson shares a little of DiMaggio's guilt.
It would be going just a bit far to openly claim that Anderson is somehow responsible for the demise of most of her family, so Twitter and mainstream media are merely suggesting it.
Anderson's father has stated publicly that the teenager is "doing good, day by day." On Thursday, Anderson looked somber as she stepped from a car into a restaurant — but, like Berry before her, Anderson will likely be widely criticized the first time she cracks a smile.
Assuming that the investigation finds nothing unusual about Anderson's relationship with DiMaggio — that, as has been understood so far, the phone calls were about the pick-up ruse DiMaggio orchestrated — Anderson will remain subject to the media's spotlight for a while. Still, if she doesn't interact with the press or the greater social network, they'll find someone else to pick on.
But let's assume for a second that Anderson and DiMaggio did have a questionable relationship, and DiMaggio's abduction of the family was linked to it. (Said Hannah on ask.fm: "He said it was more like a family crush like he had feelings as in he wanted nothing bad to happen to me.") Would this really make DiMaggio's crimes any less reprehensible, or Anderson any more guilty?
In light of DiMaggio's death at the hands of FBI agents, Anderson is the only living person who knows exactly what happened — but the girl is 16 years old. Can't we just give her a little peace?