Intentional Informing: revisited

January 5, 2011 § 8 Comments

So, my topic for today was about my nearly nonexistent digital presence. In a comment response to my post, my husband shared an article he found on The Daily Mail, and I just can’t let it sit in a comment that might get little to no attention. Before you read my take on it, you should read the article first: “Took all my pills, bye bye”: Woman commits suicide on Facebook…and none of her 1,048 online friends help.

My take: Simone Back intentionally informed her supposed network of “friends.” This is something of a misnomer that Facebook is entirely culpable for–who do you know who can honestly say they have over 1,000 friends? Unfortunately the word “friends” implies something here. It implies a mutual contract of respect, love, support, and compassion. In real life, outside of the digital world, this is a privilege that we bestow upon people with intention. For instance, some people will qualify those in their lives as “friends,” “colleagues,” “peers,” “acquaintances,” “neighbors,” “family” (blood related or not), etc. I myself do this as well. And that is healthy.

Now, is it guaranteed that Simone Back expected her 1,048 “friends” to rush to her aid, to at least call 999 on her behalf, to even ask if she wanted to talk? Who knows? She’s dead. We can’t ask her what she wanted when she posted that status. Is it likely that she expected her “friends” to taunt her publicly on her profile within the very thread where she announces her intention to end her life? Probably not. And is it really the responsibility of this 47-year-old woman’s 1,048 “friends” to keep her from swallowing all of her pills and make sure her life was all rainbows and sunshine? Of course not.

But what should they have done? What does social media, the use of the word “friend” suggest they should have done?

In my book: those who lived nearby should have rushed to her home or called 999. They should have informed her mother earlier than the following day.

I hope that everyone who reads that article is chilled by these people’s attitudes and inaction. I do not intend to have a miserable day or have some form of an emergency, but I do damn well expect my friends to be there to offer support and compassion when I need it.

Any one else want to weigh in?

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§ 8 Responses to Intentional Informing: revisited

  • This is unimaginably tragic. Frightening. I don’t even know where to begin with this. I’m stunned by the comments her “friends” made.
    Clearly, this “friending” phenomenon dilutes our sense of what friendship really is, as social media in general desensitizes us to language. Sorry I can’t say more.; I’m dizzied by this.

    • Mrs. H. says:

      It is staggering, isn’t it? When I was on Facebook, I made the choice not to “friend” anyone who I wouldn’t actually call a “friend” in real-life. And I know that I have other friends who make that same choice. Things like this really do make me wonder how many other people out there are being deliberate in choosing their “friends.”

  • Tim says:

    It seems as if the general population is increasingly becoming spectacle-centric. It’s most shocking to me that even the “friends” who were worried about her and berating the people diminishing here status didn’t do anything until the next day. From 11 – 12, two different people chose to simply berate the first person rather than try to do something themselves.

    As I mentioned, though, we seem to be becoming a spectacle-centric society. Even if we see something bad happening, we just cluck our tongues and think what a shame it is. With the facelessness of the online world, we might deign to berate the more cruel among us and consider that our civic duty done. But when given the chance to actually do something to make a difference in someone’s life, an alarmingly small number actually do. Things are merely happening for our consumption and amusement.

    It’s funny. Whenever a person actually DOES do something to help someone else in a situation like this or a million others, that person always says, “Anyone would have done it,” but they’re wrong. Anyone SHOULD have done it, but tremendously few DO it. Most prefer to “not get involved,” or do so only from a distance. It boggles my mind.

    Another prime example of this came a couple of months ago when Bill Nye (the science guy) collapsed as he was walking to a podium at a university appearance. Rather than helping him, the audience members pulled out their phones to update Twitter, Facebook, etc., with news of the event (http://failblog.org/2010/11/18/epic-fail-photos-crowd-reactions-fail).

    Life is not a spectator sport, and it makes me sad that so many people seem to view it as such.

  • Mrs. H. says:

    I think you’re absolutely right that we’re obsessed with the spectacle (hell, just check out the statuses on Lamebook.com or the often drunken texts on TextsFromLastNight.com. We just love to observe stupidity or trauma in people and point and laugh…or cluck our tongues and shake our heads. It is appalling to me. Not that her friends should be blamed for her death, of course–the one callous friend does make a fair point that she is responsible for her own choices. But I truly believe that real friendship does expect (rightfully so) a mutual contract of responsibility for each other. I am responsible for my friends, and my friends are responsible for me, too. As far as I’m concerned, mutual responsibility is focused on taking care of each other. If I observe a friend taking part in self-destruction somehow, then it is my responsibility (having observed the self-destruction) to my friend to ask if s/he needs help and then to follow through by actually offering it.

    What would have been nice, of course, is if the chastising “friends” had made attempts to help, and THEN chastised later. Of course, I don’t think we know if those friends were in the same area as she was–it’s possible they felt helpless because they didn’t know her address. I just recall one of the arguers saying that s/he was glad that s/he didn’t know any of those people in real life, since not a one of them called 999 for her. I took that to mean that that specific person might not have known her address or been close enough to offer help (might have been in the States, for instance).

    Sigh…it’s just absolutely disturbing to me.

  • Tori Nelson says:

    Oh this breaks my heart. I think this shows the MAIN problem with so-called “social networking” sites. Although they are marketed as tools for keeping up with/ instigating relationships, they are impersonal and (as you mentioned) not at all the same as seeking ONE friend out to whom you communicate a specific message personally. The cruelty shown by her taunting “friends” is so distrurbing.

    • Mrs. H. says:

      Absolutely. It seems, if anything, we should be adding “contacts” rather than “friends” to our social network. Maybe that would be more accurate. You know, it dawned on me one day that Facebook was not the social tool it claims to be when a friend of mine (an actual real-life friend) was hurt because she did not receive some news or other that I had posted one day. Turned out that Facebook did not include me on her News Feed that particular day. When my only response was, “Well…I posted it on Facebook…” we both sort of looked at each other stunned that it had come to that. Looking back, I see now that her feelings were actually hurt because I hadn’t told her specifically, since we’re friends after all. That was a bit of a wake-up call for me.

      It’s tragic that this woman didn’t feel like she could inform other friends (maybe real-life friends via real-time means) who could offer her the help she so obviously needed. Or maybe she didn’t have any real friends like that. It makes me wonder how many other tragedies are slipping under the radar because of this new “social” trend.

  • Mama McCall says:

    This reminds me of the case we read in my Intro to Psychology course about the woman who was brutally raped and set on fire in an alley by a crowded apartment building. No one called 911. There was a term for it but I don’t remember it. Basically when there are a lot of people, everyone assumes that someone else has already acted.

    • Mrs. H. says:

      Yeah! I thought of that, too. I think you’re talking about the Bystander Effect (or Bystander Apathy). The only difference in this situation, though, seems to be that the “bystanders” in this situation sort of seemed to work against anyone who might have been compelled to help by claiming that she does this all the time and she’s a liar. So it’s sort of like they were justifying not helping instead of assuming that someone already had. So sickening.

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