Earlier this week, I happened to catch a tweet from a writer in Minnesota directed at the Austin social media community. The writer had come across a suicide note posted that day by an Austin blogger and was wondering if anyone could help. I clicked on the blogger’s link and didn’t recognize the face she attached to her self-penned obituary. The face looking back at me seemed happy. It was a cherub face with a slight smirk. Above, in the blog header, another smiling photo with her three kids. Her blog bio explained that she was a divorcing mom and in the process of trying to figure out what life is all about. The obituary added that the blogger was not able to find what she was looking for, that she hasn’t and will never be able to connect with anyone, and that it was best to move on.
I immediately scrolled down to the comments to tell her to stop. It was difficult to find the words. Cookie cutter phrases like “Don’t give up!” and “People love you!” crept up in my head and I tried to push them away for something of more substance. When I finally found the words I hit “enter” and was taken to an error page. Then the entire blog went white except for the text “Forbidden”. The site had been taken down.
At that moment I felt completely helpless. In such an interconnected system, I was completely unable to get my words across, but more importantly, to physically act in helping this woman. Even though I now knew what she looked like and I knew what she was thinking and she lived in my same town, I had no idea who she was and had no idea what to do.
I wrote back to the original tweeter asking what we should. I thought of calling the police, but I had very little information to give them. How would they find her? Track down her IP address which maybe has information on where she lives and go to her house? At that point it could be too late and I’m not even sure how the police handle such a call.
I was getting frustrated.
In such an in-your-face-this-very-minute-information-now-now-NOW! society we read her real time cry for help and were unable respond to her call.
This situation stuck with me for most of the day. I periodically checked her blog, which to this day is still down. I followed the tweeter in Minnesota- who was even more shaken by the situation due to his own brother’s suicide- to see if he had anymore info. He heard through the Twitter grapevine that she was at the hospital and getting help, but no one could confirm it. As of now, I have no insight as to who the blogger is and her status.
This situation made me contemplate how often this must happen. This was my first run-in with such a scenario, but with blogs being millions of people’s diaries and forms of expression, I began wondering how many letters of help- how many outreaches for a connection- are drifting through the blogging sea. The active Austin blogging community is a very tight-knit one- many of us are real-life friends and acquaintances- and would be able to act immediately if something like this occurred. However, there are so many writers off the radar, throwing bits of their pain into the Internet wind, hoping that something will catch. If I hadn’t to happen see the tweet from the gentleman in Minnesota, I may never have known about this and others maybe wouldn’t have either.
When I began writing this post I knew there was going to be no ending. No commentary on suicide, no anecdotes about how suicide has effected me in the past, and no follow up as to what happened to the girl. This is a story simply about technology and suicide and how we watched the two meet.
As bloggers, what can we do in such a situation?