The horror of online suicide isn't the Net, it's the mirror

I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent suicide of Abraham Biggs who was lifecasting on during his suicide last Wednesday.

Tragically, people commit suicide every day. This suicide has gotten a great deal of attention because Abraham did it while other people watched and by many accounts egged him on. It is the livestreaming and the egging on that has gotten the attention of the press and many.

The much more sobering truth is that had Abraham Biggs not lifecasted his suicide, fewer people would have noticed that it happened. He apparently did not feel noticed or seen or understood or he would not have been reaching out as he did online (See comment 8 with Abraham’s threads here). His offline life was not providing that feeling for him and his online experience did not either, until he was dead.

Then one person online, in Indiatook Abraham Biggs seriously. As reported on mashable:

After an unspecified amount of time, one forum member in particular from India became concerned by Biggs’ lack of movement and hunted down the actual name and location. He then pleaded with the forum to call the Miami-Dade police department, but was met with cynical replies declining to intervene on account of his “troll status.” After several unsuccessful emails by the forum member to Miami-Dade police, he borrowed his father’s mobile and spoke to a number of policemen who didn’t take the call seriously, but directed him to the Broward County Sheriff’s Department.

Who would have noticed Abraham Biggs’ pain in his offline life? When?

We can be met with invisibility, cruelty and name-calling in our offline lives. We can be met with them anonymously online. Even the news story about this suicide on Wired prompted similar mean and cruel behaviour (with gay-bashing as a typical insult to de-humanize). And this after Abraham was already dead.

Too bad the rest of doesn’t follow suit. Next to the pick up artists community, has to be the largest gathering point for insecure beta males to live out their alpha fantasies while posting half naked pictures of themselves to share with other guys.
Have fun at the next circle jerk, homos.
Posted by: jimmy | Nov 20, 2008 8:56:52 PM

I actually have hope about people reaching out online about their pain. Even if they behave like “trolls.” Even if they have no idea how their deepest feeling can be heard because they don’t know what that’s like. For as many people as may respond cruelly, all it takes is one person to see and validate it to make a profound difference in someone’s life. And online there are more people and therefore more possibility.

We’re noticing that it happened. We’re noticing that Abraham is dead. We’re noticing he didn’t feel listened to. And one complete stranger on another continent took him seriously, although it cost Abraham his life for that to happen.

Because we’re noticing how we behave. This isn’t just about a magical serious of tubes and wired making people act like their worst selves. It is our world’s behavior we are seeing recorded and so reflected back to many more of us. This is how people are behaving to one another. Online and off. This is our mirror.