Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ashley Billasano - Social Media and Sucide

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I read about the teenager who tweeted and committed suicide on  Bumight's post - For Ashley Billasano. A few months ago it was Motunrayo Ogbara's suicide all over the blogs and Twitter. This got me thinking. Is it that there is more suicide now, or simply that it is more reported in the media? More disturbing, why is it usually so closely related to social media? Is there a danger that people are copying others who they see or hear commit suicide on Twitter or Facebook?

Social media guru, Trey Pennington wrote on twitter: 'Sure am thankful for online friends who are real friends offline, too. Love you.' just hours before his death. In Seoul, a former DJ tweeted, “I’m going to commit suicide. To all of you, even those who shared the slightest friendship with me, I love you,” and went ahead to hang himself. Clementi, the guy who committed suicide after being outed said farewell via Facebook: "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry." Some of you may remember Simone black, whose friends did nothing to help after she posted on FB, 'Took all my pills, bye bye'.
There are even more cases, and close similarities, that I'm left with more questions instead of answers. Will socialized suicides become so common that more people think it's no big deal and do the same? Will we only shrug and move on when such news break?

But there is some hope, Facebook has partnered with The Samaritans to help prevent suicide. They even have a dedicated help page for those who may have friends affected. Also, in South Africa, a community on Twitter was able to stop a mother of two from killing herself. They tweeted love and support to her and spread her details till she was found and secured. It also made the main network news when the same happened with a follower of Demi Moore back in early days of Twitter in 2009.

One thing is certain,  we can't negate these connections we make online. Like I said in my Blog Abandoned post, I wonder where and how bloggers who disappear are, and hope they're OK. It may seem our collective memories are very short, but we do remember. News like this may go away, but it never dies. Some people knew Ashley Billasano personally, chatted with her on twitter, read her last tweets and tried to help and encourage her. How are they feeling now? Guilty, lost, betrayed?

To be honest, I am a bit confused by all this. I may say suicide is not an option, or that it is not a way out of depression or life's problems. I wish they would think of those they left behind, their friends and family who care for them and who will bear that loss for the rest of their lives. But who am I to talk really? Have I walked in their shoes? Even if I don't understand them, I can decide to be human, and show a heart.

For Ashley Billasano, Motunrayo Ogbara and those who could not bear it anymore. Rest in Peace.

For those still alive, and who are in pain. Please reach out and seek help. I pray peace for you, and life.


  1. Just Sad how people turn to suicide as the best way to get out of what ever they going through,we have to try reach out to one another immediately we notice some sort of worry,signs of depression or change in behavior.that way they can get to open up and not even think of taking their own lives....

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  3. Funny 'cos I had to make a presentation about this topic just last week in school.

    The social factor always has a big role to play especially when you think about the fact that the major causes of suicide are depression and frustration(not the only ones) but constitutes for the most cases.
    And when it comes to managing these problems, psycho-social help is always very effective.
    As a matter of fact, some countries have adopted an idea of having a hotline where you can call to speak to someone when you need to.

    When it comes to managing suicide, it's very important and more effective to tackle the causes (and their associated symptoms) than having to deal with the suicide itself.

    I just hope that more and more people will become informed and realize that suicide is never an option because the occurrence rate is steadily on the increase these days.

  4. I think the internet is a means of writing the letter you would have written to whoever would find your body back in the day. Only its shorter. I was in the UK in 2008 and I remember the newspapers being full of a disconcerting trend of young teens who were committing suicide and they blamed things like the drinking culture that's so prevalent there.In the two weeks I stayed there, over 16 deaths were reported and the kids were between 14 and 17 dying either by suicide or stabbings by peers.
    I'm not sure if the internet contributes, but it definitely makes more of us aware of the presense of suicidal people. Recently back home there was an investigation launched in one semi rural town because the teens were killing themselves instead of going to their parents to tell them they failed their last year in highschool. there is so much pressure on kids and the thing is when you're in that situation, you can't see a way out. You are blind to the obvious.That's why awereness from those around you is so important. we need to be more aware of those around us, when we say how are you look at the person in the eye and probe if necessary. Sometime we pick up something's wrong but are too wrapped up in our own stuff to care to ask while careful paying attention.

  5. @Didi, that is spot on. There's really not much else most of us can do.

    @MsJB, thank you for shedding more light on the issue, it is really so heart breaking.

    @Wendy, so true. Hmmm...

  6. I think I'm probably insulated, but this is the first time I'm hearing about this. It would definitely be the sensible thing take any such tweet seriously, at least until it's proven that the writer is just pulling a prank.

  7. Sad stories that truly touch the heart. I believe we now live in a world where people are increasingly isolated as a result of social media. Sometimes I do wonder how social is social media if people now see it as a means to show others their dying moments. It is very worrying but then it shows people can be very vulnerable despite how they may appear on the outside.

    I wish more can be done to spot signs of vulnerability in people early if at all possible. Perhaps society could do more to help.

  8. @JL, that is definitely the sensible thing to do, but sometimes we take things for granted.

    @N4life, I also wonder about the sociability of the whole thing. Shouldn't the fact that she has people around her to talk back have drawn her back from the edge? I guess we'll never know.

  9. Amen!

    The news about suicide is always heartbreaking, how does anyone get to the point where they feel there is no hope and the only way to ease the hurt is by killing themselves?

    I feel like leaving suicide tweets and facebook updates is the last cry for help and pray that we all get the grace to help save a life.

    God bless you for sharing

  10. There was a time suicide was being reported in China like almost daily. I used to jokingly tell my friend that there must be something in their water.

    This is closer to home ad truly saddens me. God forbid that i should ever have to read that tweet or fb status from a friend...heartbreaking

  11. I've been meaning to write a post on this subject. And i will, once i have enough time to properly articulate my thoughts on the matter.

    I really love the wording you used to express your view.

    The "suicide tweets" are just the same as the suicide notes people who commit suicide have been known to leave. It's just a sign of the tech age, as it is some of us share our whole lives with strangers over the internet already, so that one would tweet their suicide is not surprising at all.

    I don't think there's an increasing trend of suicides, i just think that social media and the internet are bringing the world closer and creating more awareness about issues that have always been present.


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