Tag Archives: Suicide

I Just Can’t Take It Any More

Facebook might try to save your life.

In the current issue of PC Magazine are “10 Things You Should Know About Facebook’s New Privacy Policy“. Most of them are pretty straightforward. Facebook is archiving every like, friend request and message you send and letting advertisers use that information on and off Facebook. If your messages or statuses seem to indicate that you intend to do harm to yourself or others, Facebook might intervene. In other words, if I post that I am depressed and want to kill myself, Facebook might put me in contact with agencies for Suicide prevention. If I say I plan to commit a crime, they might send someone to arrest me.

I’m not sure what to think about that.

I think the crime thing won’t be all that effective. It will catch roughly the same amount of criminals as the “are you a terrorist?” question. If anything, it may lead to situations where someone making a joke is taken a little too seriously (as profiled on This American Life a few years ago).

But suicide isn’t a joke.

Last Christmas a 42 year old woman posted that she had taken an overdose and would be dead soon. None of her 1048 Facebook friends helped her, called the police, called her, called anyone. Some chose to mock her online.

This woman is not alone.

In response to these and other incidents, and calls from people in the industry, Facebook has formed a partnership with the Samaritans to Prevent Suicide, and also actively takes down pro-suicide Facebook groups.

I think these are both good things, but it disturbs me that they are necessary. How close are we really to our friends, to anybody? Are we keeping track of what’s going on in each other’s lives, are we encouraging each other when we’re down? Or are we just voyeuristic, checking up on old girlfriends, trying to figure out who’s married, successful, or not?

We were talking about the Good Samaritan in church this Sunday, and the number of people who passed by without stopping to help. In the case of the 42 year old woman, not only did 1048 people pass by, some stopped to point and laugh.

What are we doing?

It shouldn’t be up to Facebook to step in to save people who are lost like this. It should be up to us. And if we’re not really ready to care about what’s going on with our hundreds of ‘friends’, then maybe we shouldn’t be friends anymore.

Maybe all 1048 friends thought someone else had stepped in, and that they didn’t need to. Maybe they didn’t think she was serious. It’s understandable, and it’s sad. We’re sharing more of ourselves than ever, but more and more we’re doing it in a crowded room, where no one will really hear us. I’ve joked a lot about not being worried about what I put out on the net because there’s too much information glut for anyone to really take notice of me.

It’s probably true.

It’s a good thing Facebook is doing, but maybe part of “loving our neighbors” is seeing what they’re up to online.

NOTE: I didn’t know about any of these stories until doing a little research. Is this something I just missed, or have other people never heard about these cases?

Oh, and just so we’re clear, I’m fine. 


Filed under Faith + Life, Trube On Tech