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Last week LeAnn Rimes – who is not a reality star but whose life certainly warrants a reality show – entered rehab after filing a lawsuit against twitter followers she claims harassed her over Brandi Glanville, who as you know is a reality star. 

This prompted Fox News to do a little investigative reporting into what they are terming the "dark side" of twitter. And it does posit an interesting question: Is social media ruining even celebrities lives? 

"I've been built up and torn down, built up and torn down," LeAnn previously told People. "It's been difficult to tune people out, especially in the last few years." The singer decided to go into rehab to learn "coping mechanisms" to help her deal with the constant social media onslaught. Here's a tip: Don't engage the crazies! Especially if you are one of the crazies.

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"I felt bad hearing about LeAnn – and, of course – I know Brandi,” Kyle Richards told Fox News. “So, I’ve been watching this closely. My heart really does go out to LeAnn because I feel bad for anybody who goes through something like that. I know how bad it can make you feel.”

And Kyle can completely sympathize. The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star claims she too has been the victim of some pretty nasty harassment on twitter, which gives common folk unfettered access to any celebrity F-List to A-List who has an account. 

BRANDI MOCKS LEANN'S TWITTER LAWSUIT! 

"One time, someone tweeted to me, ‘I hope you die of breast cancer like your mother did,’” Kyle shares. “And then they started tweeting all of my children, ‘I hope you die of breast cancer like your grandmother did.’ Then, my husband came home and I was sobbing in front of the computer. And he says, ‘You cannot look at this – who cares what these people think.’ I know that logically, but still – it hurts so badly."

Kyle continues, "I was so overwhelmed by thinking that there were people out there who could even talk to someone like that. It was too much for me. When it first started to happen, I would reply (to the bully) and then people would (tweet), ‘Who cares, don’t pay attention to that,’ and logically, I know that, but it’s impossible because you want to shake some sense into these people and say, ‘I’m a human being, too.’”

Recently Charlotte Dawson a judge on Australia's Next Top Model was driven to a suicide attempt over cruel comments on twitter – including hundreds of tweets telling her to kill herself. 

“Hope this ends the misery,” Charlotte's last series of tweets on August 29th read, shortly before she was hospitalized. “You win x.” I have found it particularly shocking and horrible the things people will say, it's almost as if Twitter removes their both their true identity, their filter, and their sense of humanity. 

Some of the tweets I've read are scathing, downright hateful, and truly disgusting. What I've found to be the case is that it gives the average person a sense of power. We have complete access to these celebrities through social media and while most people would never speak so rudely to someone they actually know, a reality star who we see acting a mess on TV every week, but whom we don't actually know and has no connection to our real lives, but whose lives we have a connection to – is a different story. 

“I was so upset when I first heard about Charlotte Dawson,” Kyle says. “I was just blown away. I think that people feel that if you’re in the public eye, then you’re just not a human being–you don’t have feelings.”

Which is exactly the problem says Dr. Jenn Berman host of Couple's Therapy. "Twitter is something that is definitely a topic of conversation in therapy with the celebrities that I work with – both on [my show] and in my private practice. It is painful to have people tweet cruel things at you. Celebrities are only human and nobody likes being bullied.”

Bullying, like many social ills, has no socio-economic boundaries. Rich, glamorous, beautiful, smart, successful, famous – anyone can become the victim. And when celebrities put so much of their lives out there for the public, their self-esteem becomes connected to public opinion. And twitter, while a microcosm of the public, is intimate as much as it is anonymous. 

“In order to be a performer, typically you have to be someone who is somewhat sensitive, creative, and you enjoy being in the public eye and getting that attention,” Dr. Berman explains. “Often times, the person who likes that attention is a person who has a need to be liked and adored, and when fans are cruel, sometimes that person will try to convince them, ‘I’m really not a bad person–please love me, please care about me.’ It’s human nature – nobody wants to be hated.”

So what can a celeb do when they are the victim of twitter-bullying? The same thing fifth graders are taught to do: not engage. “A lot of times when people engage in bullying behavior, they’re looking for a response,” Deborah Temkin, Bullying Prevention Coordinator for the U.S. Department of Education.

“There have been many times where I’m like, ‘I’m never looking at my Twitter again,’” Kyle laughs. “But then there’s also times where I have a lot of fun."

And it's not all bad – for every nasty comment there are plenty of fun, light-hearted fans who just want to say hello to their favorite reality star.

"I reply to almost everyone–I’ll make a joke and everyone will weigh in. One night I was up laughing – my husband must have thought I was crazy," Kyle says. I was up laughing out loud until 1:30 in the morning with all these people on Twitter.”

[Photo Credit: Nikki Nelson/WENN.com]

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