Bad Things on the Web (or Death and Facebook)

In class, we’ve been doing presentations. It’s been grand, really, because these “presentations” are done in small groups, and are much more like chats, which is great.

My presentation was on a cyber harassment case at Rutgers University. I also used this article, which I mostly only used for emphasis.

Reading the article, I was really taken aback, for several reasons. I wish we knew more about the background of Tyler Clementi, so we knew why exactly he reacted with suicide. No, I’m not one of those “suicide is never the answer!” people, because I can understand that there are some things that someone can’t get over, or through, or even under, and that picking death isn’t actually an easy choice — and actually going through with it, that’s even harder. However, being video taped secretly and having that streamed, well, that’s not exactly on my list of Things That Are Bad Enough To Commit Suicide Over (or, if wouldn’t be if I had a list, but you know what I mean).

So I looked up his background.

While the article makes it seem like he went Oh my God, he taped me, my privacy is gone, I’m going to jump — there was actually more time between Point A and Point B. Not much,  but there was enough time for the roommate to watch him a second time, and for complaints to be made.

However, what interested me most of all wasn’t the why, or the how, but rather, the suicide note.

He left a message on Facebook that said he was going to jump, sorry — and that was it. Several people thought it was a really poor joke — his father was hoping he’d been kidnapped. When they found the body a week later, though, they knew the truth.

Still, it’s interesting, isn’t it, the way our lives and even our deaths are starting to revolve around social networking sites? While this is the first time I’ve heard of Facebook-as-a-place-for-suicide-notes, I admit that it’s not the first time it’s been death related that I’ve seen. More and more, when people die, others leave notes on their Walls, or they Message them. It’s like the online version of a wake — everyone gathering on someone’s Wall and commenting on each others posts. I think it’s kind of creepy, personally. But I guess it saves on gas.

I looked into it, a bit, and found that Facebook allows the family of a deceased person to memorialize or delete profiles. It makes sense — after all, it can’t be pleasant to see your late good friend show up in your Reconnect results. In fact, I would think it’d be a little heartbreaking.

…Looking over what I’ve written, the topic seems to have gotten away from me. I meant to write about the secret taping and sharing of Tyler Clementi in a place where he should have been safe — his dorm room. I meant to write about how his roommate, the guy who taped him, tweeted about it, and how if he’d plead out, he would have gotten 600 hours of community service and some counseling. I meant to write about how a girl in their hall was part of it, and how she ended up with 300 hours of community service and three years of cyber bullying classes. That the laws about cyber bullying/harassment/stalking simply aren’t all that effective — primarily because they aren’t really there, or enforced.

I was asked a question, and though I’ll tell you my answer, feel free to answer as well.

Do you think bullying on the Internet an extension of bullying in real life, or is it a new thing?

Personally, I think it’s a bit of both. Real life and Internet life are one and the same these days. If something outside of the ‘net happens, people bring it to the ‘net — it’s impossible these days to live in only one world, unless you try really, really hard (or are Amish). So, as far as bullying is concerned, of course it’s an extension. It’s just a new place to torment other people, to gossip, to tease.

It’s also a reverse — the bullied can become the bully. This is because, unlike pre-Internet days, it’s really easy to get information about someone onto the web, or to pretend to be someone else. In fact, in a few keystrokes, you could make someone else’s life hell — something that most bullied children daydream about but are unable to do due to size or strength or self confidence issues. It’s a simple matter to get back at someone anonymously as well, something that is harder to do in the physical world.

I would, of course, like to hear (or, you know, read) your opinions on the matter. Which do you think it is? Why?

~Ekhlami

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One comment on “Bad Things on the Web (or Death and Facebook)

  1. Definitely not the first time hearing about Facebook being a place for suicide notes. In fact my school last year had someone say some “last words” so to speak, over Facebook. I didn’t know him well, but apparently people took the status as a joke. Only to wake up the next morning to the sad news that he had committed suicide. Kind of sad nobody tried to help really.

    As to answer your question, I think they should be treated the same way. Bullying is bullying. No matter where it takes place, there are still emotions.

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