One of the extraordinary things about having access to the Internet is being able to get breaking news as it happens. Sometimes the news is good, but most often it is only the sensational that warrants wide and immediate media coverage. We have all heard stories of people who have formed cyberspace relationships that were so ultimately painful the users ended their lives in various ways. Teens who have been bad-mouthed or ridiculed on social networks, those mourning unrequited love of a cyberpartner- the swiftness with which hateful diatribe can reach epidemic proportions is alarming at best; a tragedy at worst.
I just read that a young man in Florida starting blogging on a bodybuilding web site at 3 a.m. and announced that he was taking a deadly combination of drugs to kill himself. He provided a link to the webcam that would broadcast the life slipping from his body. That sure got hm a lot of attention. Some on-line users tried to talk him out of it, while others egged him on. Egged him on. Go ahead and kill yourself so I can watch?? How disgusting and immoral is that?? Sure, it could have been a joke but what if it was real? Have we fallen so low as to crave the ultimate horror show- the actual destruction of life? Someone watching had enough concern for a fellow human being to contact the website moderator. By the time they traced the URL and went to the boy’s home at 3:50 p.m. they found him lying on his bed, in webcam view, dead of a lethal combination of drugs.
I cannot imagine the pain his family feels. I hope with all my heart that those who watched the webcam with glee are feeling ashamed of their participation. There are many who use the Internet to find vicarious thrills beyond violent, bloody video games. They are just morally or socially depraved ghouls. But what of those who just ignored the unfolding drama as the bravado of a guy anxious for attention, thinking he would never do it? We all have to ask ourselves “What if it is real?”
The family said that he was under medication for severe depression and bipolar disorder and one or more of the drugs used was prescribed to him. Arguably, this young man was damaged emotionally and on a self-destructive course that cannot be blamed on others. He made the choice. Or did he?
Two days ago I wrote on this blog about dealing with clinical depression- my own clinical depression. It isn’t something that one advertises because of the stigma attached, but I was diagnosed with clinical depression nearly a year after a diagnosis of Systemic Lupus turned my life upside down. Over 20 years of dealing with the shadowy darkness that can paralyze you and drain the spark out of life has taught me to never take another’s pain lightly. I believe that if I had read of this young man’s intentions, I would have raised a hue and cry to stop it. If it was a hoax, stop it immediately and punish his arrogant ass, but what if it was real? What if it was real…..
There will always be the “little boy who cried wolf” and people who should know better do stupid things that they shouldn’t in the name of thrills or entertainment. Still, there are those so emotionally hampered that they cannot control the darkness enveloping them. Sometimes they cry out for help in subtle ways; sometimes it’s extreme. I do not pretend to know what was going on with the young man who died today but it makes me cry for him. How sad that he had no-one to talk to but the nameless, faceless shadows on the internet- some of them who watched him die.
Clinical depression is on the rise. Life is complicated and the situation is getting tougher. People are losing their homes, jobs and things they hold dear. We’ve come through the most contentious election in history, leaving us divided instead of united for the best of the country. The international media shows us starving children, nature’s fury, human rights vioaltions and war. Somewhere there’s always war. For those willing and able to help, the media spotlight is necessary. For some facing their own personal drought, it’s painful to watch devastation they can do nothing about. Some people with big hearts find them breaking while they are powerless to stop human suffering.
So what is the point of all this musing? I’m hoping that just one person reading it will wonder what they would have done in the twelve hours that the young man in Florida lay dying. I want one person to listen more carefully to loved ones, friends, even internet strangers. I want them to listen for the hopelessness, the cry for help unspoken. I want them to try to save a life or just ease someone’s burden. I want them to always, always ask… what if it’s real? What if they’re not kidding?
Yes, most depression is temporary and everyone has a bad day or week once in a while. Maybe a friendly hug or just a chat over a cup of coffee can turn their day around. We all need to know that someone cares. No one truly wants to feel alone. My heart is sad for a young man who’s life had no meaning, who orchestrated his demise so he didn’t die alone. One other thing. I pray that the person who finally contacted authorities, who tried to intervene, is not saddened because he failed. We are all better off because one person tried to stop it. Maybe there is hope for us as a society, after all.