A couple months ago, a story filled my hometown news media outlets about a young man, Tyler Clementi, who had announced he was going to take his life on his Facebook profile. A simple message left on his page read, “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” It was a heartbreaking story that left everybody in shock as 450 of his friends on the social network read the status update, and nobody was able to prevent the tragedy.
Moving forward to Christmas day in the U.K., I unfortunately bring a story with another absolutely dreadful ending: 42-year-old Simone Back committed suicide after announcing on her Facebook page, “Took all my pills be dead soon bye bye everyone,” according to this article found on the Huffington Post.
Over 1,000 of her friends on the social network, as the Post states, read the update and at most only a few too far away attempted to console her through posts asking for contact information. Nobody in close proximity to Back reached out to help, and according to the Telegraph, “Some of the Facebook friends posted messages calling her a liar and one said it was ‘her choice.’” Simone’s body was discovered 17 hours after the post, and according to the same article, only because her mother received a simple text that read, “Get help.”
The Telegraph said that after the incident, Simone Back’s mother, Jennifer Langridge, updated her daughter’s page after her passing stating, “My daughter Simone passed away today so please leave her alone now.”
According to the Huffington Post, a Facebook spokesperson reached out to the news website stating:
We were deeply saddened to hear of the recent suicide of Simone Back. We have a close working relationship with the Samaritans and have a process in place whereby friends and family who are concerned about someone can report it to us through the Help Centre. A team of trained professionals are then able to review the case and the Samaritans will make contact with the person at risk. The safety of people who use Facebook is of paramount importance to us and this system is just one of number of tools we have in place to help them stay safe.
With multiple accounts of these tragic stories within one year, it creates a storm of emotions amongst the reader. It serves to show how little our online social networks – which we sometimes hold overly close – may actually mean in our real lives. It also serves to show how important it is to reach out past a network such as Facebook to make sure those closest to us are safe and sound.
If nothing else, it’s essential to take away from these repeated instances that we must reach out to those appearing in need, and not leave snide comments when we see horrific posts such as these. Let us learn from the tragedies of both Simone Back and Tyler Clementi the necessity of reaching out when you see a Facebook post that should raise obvious concern in hopes of avoiding similar future occurrences.