Friday, November 21, 2008

More on the Florida Internet suicide

This just breaks my heart. My sympathies are with his family.

From ABC News.


Florida Teen Live-Streams His Suicide Online
Abraham Biggs, 19, Was Egged On by Fellow Bloggers, Cops Say

By EMILY FRIEDMAN
Nov. 21, 2008 —

A Florida teenager who used a webcam to live-stream his suicide Wednesday was reportedly encouraged by other people on the Web site, authorities told ABCNews.com.

"People were egging him on and saying things like 'go ahead and do it, faggot,' said Wendy Crane, an investigator at the Broward County Medical Examiner's office.

Abraham Biggs, 19, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., had been blogging on an online body-building message board and had linked to his page on Justin.tv, a live video streaming Web site, where the camera rolled as he overdosed on prescription pills, according to Crane.

Biggs, who had reportedly been discussing his suicide on the forums, also posted a suicide note on a body-building forum, which has since been taken down, in which he wrote, "I hate myself and I hate living."

"I have let everyone down and I feel as though I will never change or never improve," Biggs wrote in the posting. "I am in love with a girl and I know that I am not good enough for her. I have come to believe that my life has all been meaningless. I keep trying and I keep failing. I have thought about and attempted suicide many times in the past."

The video and blog postings have since been removed from the sites, but Crane, who has seen both, said that at first viewers thought the suicide was a hoax.

"The bloggers said that Biggs had threatened to kill himself before and had faked it, so at first they didn't believe him," said Crane. "Gradually, as you read the blog further into the day the bloggers start commenting on how Biggs isn't moving."

Crane said comments on the thread included an exchange about whether the image of Biggs' motionless body was a still photograph or a video, and eventually resulted in one of the site's visitors calling the police, who tracked down the teen through his computer IP address.

According to Wired magazine, online viewers watching the video ranged from "OMG" -- Internet slang for oh my god -- and LOL -- an abbreviation for laughing out loud.

Blog Posts

On a blog where Biggs wrote about his suicidal thoughts, which has since been removed, commenters wrote, "hahaha hahahahha hahahahahah ahhaha." Wired reported that someone else wrote: "Instant Darwinism ..." to which a fellow commenter wrote: "f**king a nicely put." Others called the teen a "coward," "faggot" and a "dick."

In the Web stream, Crane said viewers saw a piece of a door frame -- which had splintered from the police kicking in the teen's bedroom door -- hit Biggs, who is curled up on his bed and facing away from the camera.

"Then you see a police officer go in and check on him, and then the EMS pronounced him dead," said Crane.

Biggs was pronounced dead at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 19 -- about 12 hours after he had begun blogging about his suicide.

The official cause of death was suicide combined with drug toxicity. Crane said that benzodiazepines and opiates were found near the body, but a blood toxicology to quantify just how much Biggs consumed is still under way.

Crane said that at least one of the prescription drugs was in Biggs' name.

Michael Seibel, the CEO of Justin.tv, posted a blog entry on the site titled "A Moment of Silence."

"Justin.tv staff would like to take a moment to recognize and reflect upon the tragedy that occurred within our community today," wrote Seibel. "We respect the privacy of the broadcaster and his family during this challenging time."

Reached by telephone, Biggs' father, Abraham Biggs Sr., told ABCNews.com that he was shocked to learn of his son's death.

"He was a good kid. Everyone knows him," said Biggs. "We live together and everything was fine -- I'm so surprised."

Biggs' father was not home at the time of his son's suicide, and the father told ABCNews.com that he was not aware that his son used Justin.tv.

Biggs had struggled with depression, according to his father, and had been prescribed medication for bipolar disorder. Benzodiazepine is commonly prescribed as a sleep aid or an anti-anxiety medication.

Even so, Biggs had been "doing better," according to his father and had been attending daily classes at Broward College, where he was pursing a career as a paramedic.

Internet Provides Outlet to Suffer in Public

"I am upset that Justin.tv streamed this live," said Biggs. "I have not seen it, and I do not intend to look at it.

"There seems to be a lack of control as to what people put out on the Internet," he said. "There's a lot of garbage out there that should not be, and unfortunately, this was allowed to happen."

David Griner, a social media strategist for Luckie & Company, said that while public deaths are not new, online chatrooms provide an especially accessible forum for those debating suicide.

"The social Web tends to create a sideshow atmosphere, like public executions in the 1700s," said Griner. "The anonymity and lack of personal connection bring out the worst in people."

Griner points out that there have been several other online suicides, and some have been faked as well.

In February 2008 a girl who identified herself only as "90 Day Jane" wrote an anonymous blog chronicling the days leading up to her death. The blog turned out to be a hoax, and "Jane" later described it as an "art project."

The United Kingdom had an online suicide in March 2007, when 42-year-old Kevin Whitrick hanged himself while others watched. According to the BBC, some onlookers tried to stop him while others urged him on.

"The explosion of high-speed Internet access in the past few years has made it so that almost anyone can broadcast a live video in front of a global audience," said Griner. "It's impossible for sites like Justin.tv to monitor everything that's going on, so that puts the burden on the community to help stop bad things from happening."

Griner believes that those who encourage suicidal people are simply a sad reality of an unrestricted World Wide Web. Even so, some potential suicides are prevented on the Internet as well.

"You'll always have the morbid jerks who yell 'Jump!' when someone's on a rooftop, and you'll always have people threatening suicide in a public venue," said Griner. "And while it's easy to focus on the abundance of bloodthirsty trolls online, the bright side is that the Internet also gives more decent people the opportunity to intervene and try to save a life."

"Most times, they just need someone to talk to, and the Internet is the only forum they have."

Copyright © 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures

10 comments:

svasti said...

That is just so incredibly sad. My thoughts go out to this family as well. I hope those heartless enough to watch and wait to see if he was faking it have learned something. I hope so!

Anonymous Drifter said...

I think it's just sick that anyone would encourage another human being to commit suicide,

bipolarlife said...

I hope that people learn that ANY mention of suicide should be taken seriously. This is incredibly sad.

Immi said...

Horrifying.

susan said...

@Svasti, thank you for visiting, I agree it's sad. I just heard on the news 1500 people saw it and no one did anything. Sounds like a modern day Kitty Genovese.

@Drifter, I cannot imagine this either, it's like a Stephen King novel, huh?

@Bipolarlife, I agree.

@ Immi, the Cheezeburger Queen, I agree.

Dano MacNamarrah said...

I wonder about the age of the young man who took his own life. Many teenagers don't really comprehend the absolute stillness of death. Visions of maudlin funerals, where they are lauded and missed, can fuel a young mind.

While it is absolutely appalling that he was encouraged, I suspect many disturbed responders were using "Transference" in their answers.

As anonymous people, they can feel free to attack that which they hate the most. The aspect of themselves that they most despise. Cowardly, hiding in the virtual world just as the KKK hides behind masks, they are proof of how far so many are from the respect of every individual.

Border Life said...

I'm overcome with dismay. This is awful.

kimmyk said...

i read this yesterday and it broke my heart. i feel sorry for the family of course but my heart goes out to this kid whose barely had a chance to understand life. i can't imagine what happened in his world that he said "this is it, i can't do it anymore" and decided to end it all. his video will be a constant reminder to his family...just sad.

jessi said...

It's awful.

I doubt though if it's very good to post the news so extensively.

In myself I notice that I keep reading this stuff out of some morbid curiosity. I don't like that. I'd prefer a post on how to prevent something like this from happening.

susan said...

Jessi,

Hi there! Long time no see!

I actually plan on writing something like that soon.

How have you been dear one?

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