November 23, 2008 |
Earlier this week the entire internet audience was completely appalled by a story reported by NewTeeVee of a 19-year old Abraham Biggs’ suicide broadcast life on Justin.tv. I am not going into details of the fatal event here as it is not relevant to this publication at all and I don’t think everyone I particularly willing to knowing everything behind the terrible story – everyone interested in the details and the background will find plenty of them here while I am just going to focus on the internet side of the story and the implications it can have for the internet industry.
We can continue talking all we want about the reasons that can push a college student to commit suicide with thousands of people watching and we’ll probably never know all the motivations that can push one to doing so. I myself have a feeling that the webcast was a cry for help from the guy hoping people will notice the trouble and will help him in some way but he did not get it where he chose to show his suffering.
And of course the most outrageous thing about the situation is the attitude of people who watched the video of a guy dying for 12 hours and did not do anything to stop him or at least attempt to help him before it was too late. And it is definitely beyond my understanding that some of the users encouraged Abraham to continue and actually kill himself in front of all their eyes. Of course we have their official explanation: they claim that the guy was well-known as a troll in the discussion forums he participated in and already threatened committing suicide in the past so the users present at the live suicide event decided it was nothing but a yet another provocative action from him. But even this explanation does not mean that among the several hundreds of people watching the webcasting from Abraham’s bedroom there was only a handful who eventually realized it was actually serious.
So again, I can not (and probably never will) understand how a large group of people can watch a person committing suicide and do nothing to prevent it. But where I agree that the audience is partly to blame for what happened as they did not offer any help and could be part of the reason for Abraham Biggs’ depression, I strongly disagree we should now start talking about regulation of the internet and services like Justin.tv giving place and technology for such things to happen.
The thing is that the father of the 19-year old student said that the audience and the owners of the site are partly to blame for the death of his son as the audience encouraged him to continue and the website administrators did nothing to prevent it. What’s more, Abraham’s father called for tougher regulation of internet sites – apparently to prevent such situations in the future. He said:
I think after this incident and probably other incidents that have occurred in the past, they all point to some kind of regulation is necessary. I think it is wrong to have this happen for hours without any action being taken from the people in charge. Where were they all the time?
But no matter how sorry I myself feel for the family of Abraham Biggs and how appalled I am by the behavior of the people watching him dying, my position on claiming that the website is to blame and the sites should be regulated better to prevent terrible situations like this one is pretty straightforward here as I think that we should not mix the real problem and the tools that make the problem possible.
Internet only shows a problem in our society as it is – especially pointing to our indifference when watching a person in trouble. But this indifference is visible both online and offline and internet is nothing but a smaller reflection of the society and blaming the world wide web for the evils of the society does not look particularly clever and will hardly do anything but put new obstacles to innovation.
Internet has absolutely everything that the real world has – both the good and the bad aspects – but hoping that disabling the tools that make some of the events possible will prevent them from happening will hardly help anyone. It is not wise trying to heal symptoms instead of trying to find the reason causes for the problem and cope with them.
Similarly, cyber bullying is a big problem but bullying can also happen at school or at workplace so it is nothing but a reflection of what happens anyway in real life – just using another medium and different tools. But do we insist that schools should be closed and public education abolished because some children are insulted by their schoolmates which in certain cases results in suicides as well?
So my strong opinion is that internet is nothing but a medium here and trying to fix the problem by moderating chat rooms and web casting channels as well will not help – while trying to watch your beloved ones closely and trying to notice the problems they experience (even if it includes learning how to read their blogs, for example) may be just the right solution. But of course it is much more difficult to admit that the problem is in us, the people living nearby those contemplating suicides and failing to notice they are in trouble.
Photo via Abraham Memorial Page on MySpace