Last Wednesday Abraham Biggs ended his life online while many watched, some even egging him on. Abraham Biggs had threatened suicide before. Viewers called him “faggot” and “coward”. No one did anything until it was much too late.
This is not the first time that witnesses have ignored some one’s plea for help. Kitty Genovese was a highly publicized example of people not doing the right thing. No one called her names or goaded her attacker on however.
The media is making a big deal out of Abraham’s suicide. They are debating whether or not the witnesses are liable in anyway. Probably not, or at least they shouldn’t be. You can’t legislate morality. And in this case it would be extremely hard to prove if the witnesses realized this was real. Someone should have called the authorities even if they weren’t sure but in this age of YouTube where people post videos of all sorts of stupid acts it is hard to tell if this wasn’t just another prank.
Months ago a beloved website called Cooper’s Corridor was outed as being a fake. This blog had loyal readers who followed the day to day life of a gay single dad. It was later discovered that the author of the blog was really an elderly woman who had been swiping blog posts from another woman who discussed her family life in beautiful prose. When viewers found out about the deception many people were hurt. And many people became less trusting of what they read and saw on the internet. I’m not suggesting that the discovery of the fraud of Cooper’s Corridor led to people ignoring Abraham’s pleas for help but it certainly illustrated that all we see online is not real.
I’m far too cynical to think that things will change. Someone will commit suicide again online. Abraham Biggs was not the first one and he wont be the last. We can’t and shouldn’t pass laws that make witnesses or the hosting companies liable for Abraham’s deed. Whenever a life is cut short those loved ones left behind often seek someone or something to blame. This is understandable because it can assuage their own guilt. Why didn’t his family or friends see that he was having trouble? Unfortunately when people are depressed they often hide it from those who are close to them. They want to die because they don’t see anyway out of their pain. Unfortunately they don’t believe that there is help or that they could possibly ever feel better. They are sick and need treatment but their illness is different from the common cold or cancer. We don’t feel shame when we come down with a cold.
We have all become much more isolated. How many of you know your neighbors? How often do you see your family? When I was growing up I knew the name of every family on the block. I can still name them though only one family remains. I do know many of the families on my block but still less than half of all of them. If I were to see them in a different setting I probably would not recognize them. We need to get back to the front porch. We need to shut off the computer and the TV and go and talk to the neighbors. This won’t prevent all suicides but it might stop a few and that’s a start.