The curious case of Gemma Sullivan has niggled at me for weeks now.
Have you heard of her? Gem Gem. Yeah, that one – the Gemma of ‘Don’t f*ck with Gem Gem’ fame.
Gemma is ‘Facebook famous’, which unsurprisingly is where I first found her. She dropped into my peripheral vision in a viral video that was doing the rounds among my friends.
“What the hell is wrong with her?” read one share.
“OMG,” said another, “SO FUNNY. Literally crying.”
Of course, I clicked. That’s the horror of the modern world of the internet – we click, and don’t know why. I’m sorry I did: the video of Gemma Sullivan and her boyfriend Justin Ryan (also ‘Facebook famous’) was awful. They seemed a little strange. They were responding to online bullies who were harassing them. It all felt really wrong.
And yet, here were people I knew and respected in my social media web sharing the video as entertainment. They were laughing. Laughing? I was lost.
And to be perfectly honest, I still am. The situation is exactly as it initially seemed: people are making fun of a young woman who could be struggling.
I cringe even to write this piece because I don't know what Gemma's situation is. I do know from her videos that something is up with this young girl, and yet she's still fair game to the internet's trolls.
In those videos, Gemma swears like a trooper, is aggressive, often has heavy makeup smudged on her face, smokes pot, and talks a lot about her sex life. She's the perfect target for bullies, and yet this is what it is to be an online celebrity in 2016: she loves it. Or appears to.
Welcome to the modern world of Facebook Famous youth, the young people we can't protect - and who cannot protect themselves.
I have trawled the internet for almost two days trying to find out everything I can about Gemma Sullivan and Justin Ryan, but the deeper down the wormhole I go, the less I seem to find out.
I spoke to several people on Facebook to try and get to the bottom of the story. Gemma and Justin both didn't reply, so I tried a few of their friends. The only people who responded had never actually met the couple, and had only interacted online. One guy was so keen to also be 'Facebook Famous' he asked if I could write an interview on him instead. He then tried calling me twice.
Another guy admitted to only following Gemma and Justin "...to take the piss with my friends." Did he feel guilty?
"Not really," he said, "as I never publicly shame them."
It's a weird, weird world where they have thousands of online 'friends' - yet no one seems to know anything about them.
Here's what social media tells us: Gemma lives in Brisbane. She's 18 years old. She has 26,200 followers on Instagram. She's dating Justin Ryan. She smokes weed, drinks a lot, and talks about sex a lot too. She has a YouTube channel, a Snapchat account, and several Facebook pages dedicated to her. She's abused constantly across all her social media platforms, and yet still posts almost daily.
Here's what we don't know: if she's OK. Why her strange videos are filmed with makeup everywhere. Why she continues to post despite the avalanche of vile comments thrown her direction. Where her family is. What she does for work. Whether her online persona is in fact real.
In 2016, this is a fairly standard place to find yourself in. We know so much about these viral 'celebrities', and yet we really know nothing at all.
Perhaps this is why people find themselves able to share a video of a young girl and laugh at her, call her ‘inbred’, call her ‘retarded’, and mimic her - because there is no human connection. Gemma Sullivan, to these people, is just another character in the hit parade of strange folk we are confronted with online everyday.
A short section of one of Gemma's YouTube rants. (Post continues after video)
It's appalling. An old friend of mine shared the video just this morning alongside a laughing face emoji. She's 45, with a child of her own and a good solid brain in her head. I used to really like her.
YouTube channel Mr Viral has 4.5 million viewers and uploaded Gemma's infamous 'Don't F*ck With Gem Gem' video in October of last year with the caption, "She is golden, and the makeup is on point!" It's had over 60,000 views, and has collected 350 comments, many from people abusing Gemma. Without any apparent moderation from Mr Viral management.
Even Kyle Sandiland's girlfriend Imogen Anthony joined the party, using her Snapchat account to mimic Gemma and encourage her followers to watch the video too.
I could write for days about how appalling I find online bullying, but I know we're all fatigued of that topic. Yes, online bullying happens. The average punter believes that it's deserved, in some way or another, for putting themselves online in the first place. But this conversation moves past all of that, and onto something far more serious – it seems that something isn't quite right with Gemma, and still, people are laughing at her.
If Gemma and Justin were not 'Facebook Famous' but a brother or a daughter or a friend, would people still be sharing these videos as they laugh? I doubt it. But for some reason, because Gemma puts out viral videos in which she swears and yells and raps and sings, she's fair game. She's funny. Except people are laughing at her, not with her.
And then there's Justin. Also really young, Justin uploads videos all the time to a sea of cackling followers. Like Gemma, he doesn't seem to understand or notice that people are laughing at him.
One video from May this year broke my heart - Justin outed himself as gay because he was sick of being hurt by girls.
"You need to learn how to speak correctly you dumb c*nt eat a dick faggot," was just one of responses that video received.
Oh, the horror if this is real: a poor young man opening his heart and being viciously ripped to shreds by the sneering hyenas of the internet.
Even after all my digging, I still can't find Gemma Sullivan or Justin Ryan 'funny'.
I don't know if I am being trolled by an elaborate online joke, or if Gemma and Justin are real. It's a weird world for teens these days - everyone has these elaborate online personas, intimate reflections of themselves. Who knows what's real or fake online anymore.
What I DO know is real, however, are the comments. It's violent, abhorrent language that shocks me to the core, particularly since Gemma doesn't seem to understand why people are laughing at her.
"Imagine the smell of her c*nt...would be like hot garbage i reckon," wrote one YouTube commenter.
"It seriously looks like someone did a burnout on your face. yiu [sic] shouldn't have been born." wrote another.
It's baffling, it's strange, it's awful - it's the brave new world of social media.
Nothing is sacred, and anyone - even those who we should protect - have the ability to throw themselves into a world without privacy and without safety. But this is how it works now, doesn't it?
The internet really is eradicating the human touch in more ways than one.
Cut the crap.