Monday, November 24, 2008

Lifecaster Commits Suicide Live Online...

This is a horrible story on so many levels. Last week, a 19-year-old Florida teenager took an overdose of drugs and broadcast the suicide on the video website, Justin.tv. Apparently, the teen had announced his pending suicide on a BodyBuilding.com chat forum, which linked to the broadcast, and subsequently posted an online suicide note.

As if the suicide of a teenager wasn't awful enough, there were additional disturbing aspects to this story which followed.

The public reaction was outright despicable. About 185 viewers watched the suicide take place and were seen "egging him on". Later, when police were informed of the suicide by the chatroom's moderator and entered his home, prodding him to check if he was alive, the online witnesses added their own chat commentary "which ranged from OMG to LOL". Furthermore, the comments left on news reports included atrocious statements like, "hahahaha", "Should've blown his brains out. Would've made for better viewing", and "Negro got owned".

It's also troubling how this teenager was a "lifecaster". As people increasingly broadcast their personal lives to the public on blogs, YouTube, Facebook, and other websites, the Web becomes a medium for attention-starved individuals, often teenagers, to one-up each other in their quest for eyeballs, ever escalating the shock value that's needed to grab the public's attention. This teenager was reportedly an active lifecaster, and in this context, his suicide can be seen, unfortunately, as the final chapter of a tragic pattern that he exhibited online for years.

Previously unbeknownst to me, the internet actually has an additional history of online suicide pacts as well.

To their credit, Justin.tv, which actively monitors its site, almost immediately removed the suicide video, and it was the chatroom's moderator who initially called the police. So if we're looking for some good - ANY good - to come out of this story, it is that at least commercial websites are stepping up their role and taking greater responsibilities in not letting everything fly. This gives credence to the argument that it's not the forums that are to blame, but the individuals who use them.

In the end, this is really one of those stories that detracts from one's faith in humanity - and not even the suicide so much as people's reaction to it.
  

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