In the annals of middle-school mischief, the Facebook page Let’s Start Drama deserves an entry. The creator of the page—no one knew her name, but everyone was sure she was a girl—had a diabolical knack for sowing conflict among students at Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Middletown, Connecticut. “Drama Queen,” as I came to think of her in the months I spent reporting at the school to write a book about bullying, knew exactly how to use the Internet to rile her audience. She hovered over them in cyberspace like a bad fairy, with the power to needle kids into ending friendships and starting feuds and fistfights.
In contrast with some other social networks, like Twitter, Facebook requires its users to sign up with their real names. Drama Queen easily got around this rule, however, by setting up Let’s Start Drama with a specially created e-mail address that didn’t reveal her identity. Wrapped in her cloak of anonymity, she was free to pass along cruel gossip without personal consequences. She started by posting a few idle rumors, and when that gained her followers, she asked them to send her private messages relaying more gossip, promising not to disclose the source. Which girl had just lost her virginity? Which boy had asked a girl to sext him a nude photo? As Drama Queen posted the tantalizing tidbits she gathered, more kids signed up to follow her exploits—a real-life version of Gossip Girl. She soon had an audience of 500, many drawn from Woodrow Wilson’s 750 students, plus a smattering from the local high school and a nearby Catholic school.