Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Twitter Suicide Posts

On April 10th, a Twitter user began "unfollowing" everyone and deleting all of his tweets (posts) except for these tweets that he made that evening:

1) Have you ever been driving a car and suddenly realize you have no idea where you are or how you got there? My life is like that.

2) April showers bring May flowers. I was foolish to wait. If only I had showered her with April flowers things may have gone differently.

3) Dear Holy Trinity, If you are omniscient then Jesus committed suicide. So can people who commit suicide go to heaven?I’m asking for me

4) Of all the lives I've lived, I'll miss this one the most.

The imagery on the profile, including a leafless tree used as an avatar, pointed to an ominous conclusion. The user ceased all public communication after that. For hours, much of the Twitter community was deeply concerned about the well-being of this person. Many of us contacted everyone we could to try to find this user and check on his safety. Another twitter user, who appears to be his wife was located. Eventually, she responded that everything was alright and placed the blame for the incident on her husband's theatrics. To her credit, she thanked the community for their concern. He had decided to leave Twitter and created this stunt as a parting gift.

Many users were involved in trying to help this person and they should know that they have demonstrated a great deal of character in their actions. They should remember that people who show signs, such as these, of needing help must get it quickly.

Some have deleted the history of their communication from that day. I assume that they prefer to move on. This is understandable, but moving on is not forgetting. I know that some others were directly involved in the “joke” or in the promotion of it and simply found it easier to erase the record of their actions, but posted retweets of users congratulating them on their prank.

I have since learned that this is not an isolated incident and that suicide has been threatened via tweets before, but the callous disregard for the consequences in this case seems to be unique. A lesson to be taken from this is that you can't always take Twitter seriously. This is a lesson that we have learned about the rest of the internet already, and is part of what makes Twitter entertaining. The danger is that many may be taken in by lies disguised as the truth, or come to doubt everything.

I know that my family's experience with suicide makes this more important to me than it may be to someone else. My concern is that, because of this incident, someday someone who is truly in need of help will not be taken seriously.

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