This is not a new story today (http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/11/21/webcam.suicide/index.html?iref=newssearch). If you are reading this, Iâ€™m sure many of you already are aware (since you are an internet junkie like myself). However, in case you donâ€™t know, Friday, a teenage boy in Florida took his life on camera (webcam). He overdosed on drugs, went to sleep and, over a period of hours, he passed away.
During this time several people watched the broadcast from his room. He was encouraged as well as chided for being a â€œboy who cried wolfâ€ because of a previous failed suicide attempt. Someone from India eventually called the police, but it was far too late at that time. Further, the police reportedly did not take the call seriously, passing responsibility to the caller from India to place another international call to the Sherriff (http://www.keithandthegirl.com/forums/f6/guy-bb-com-commits-suicide-cam-11807/).
Obviously, this whole situation is horrible. But what I found equally (if not more) troubling was the responses online. In this post (http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=111785651) he outlines his intentions. The first three replies are â€œInâ€, â€œCoolâ€, and â€œIâ€™m downâ€â€¦ indicating the responderâ€™s support him, or even worse, are ready to join him . There are even more who are â€œinâ€ throughout the thread.
I guess it makes a certain amount of sense that there would be a suicide sub-culture on the net. Iâ€™m not suggesting that bodybuilding.com is a mecca for such, in fact Iâ€™m sure it is not, however it would appear it might be a usable gateway to find one.
Arguably, what the Internet does best is make the world smaller, filtering away the disparate masses and allowing one to create groups of like minded people from around the world. In the same way that I have, in a few short months, managed to cull hundreds of people interested in a certain specific brand of politics and an even larger group of non-wealthy â€œdo-goodersâ€ that I am able to relate with, Iâ€™m sure a person contemplating suicide would not have to look long or hard to find others with the same predilection.
Obviously, consorting with a group of like minded people on the topic of suicide could be a rather destructive endeavor. Being ignored when you are contemplating suicide is bad, having someone encourage you to do so is worse, but having a group of â€œfriendsâ€ ready to jump into the fire with you has got to be the worst (meaning most effective) type of encouragement. It becomes bigger than it was, as you are part of something. There could be dependencies, people the suicidal individual feels a responsibility not to let down. It is team building at its absolute worst.
The family, despite probably knowing that the boy was on anti-depressants was surprised:
The father said he had no reason to believe his son was having problems.
“He was a good son,” he said. “I’m sorry that no one could help him when I was not around to help him myself.”
This whole affair has left me scratching my head and wondering what should be done. Clearly, there is a crisis of conscience in this sub-set of the internet/world that would allow them to sit by and watch this, joke about it, encourage him or even suggest joining him.
Part of this can be written off, of course, to the fact that some thought it was a hoax. However, does that not send up a bit of a red flag in and of itself? How healthy is a society where the assumption is that if someone states they are going to kill themselves, they must be joking or, to quote one respondent, simply be an â€œattention whore?â€
Partially, I blame video games, television and even movies. Not in the common sense, that they promote or create a general malaise about violence (they might, in fact probably do, but that is not my particular concern here). Rather, my concern is the amount of time those things serve as a surrogate for family interaction. Every hour of video game, television etc. is an hour that is not being spent conversing with your children, molding them into the kind of people we want to send out into the world. The kind of people who might have seen in a forum or chat room that a teen in Florida was killing himself on line and tried to do something about it.
My kids play video games, they also watch TV etc. and Iâ€™m not suggesting that these devices will be thrown away. However, you can also bet that I will be having a conversation with my boys about this incident. A very direct conversation with my teen, and a more theoretical conversation with the 8 year old. Weâ€™ll be discussing the importance of being a good samaritan, and getting involved if someone might be in trouble or in need of help.
It is not possible for me to directly help, or even be aware of, all of the CandyJunieâ€™s (the boy who took his own life’s online nickname) of the world; however, I can encourage my boys not to be Zachry114â€™s, Briiskâ€™s, or Criolloâ€™s (the first three responders referenced above) et. al. and who knows, maybe that will make the difference somedayâ€¦ I can hope so, anyway.