One of the most helpless situations would be to see someone kill himself or herself right in front of you without being able to intervene. This was exactly what happened when a 19 year-old Nebraska man shot himself whilst in an online chat room. This type of virtual communication, which has become the order of the day in our popular culture, may very well be what leads to these extreme acts of self-annihilation.
There’s a lot to be said for direct multi-sensory human contact. With it comes a person’s smell, touch, every expression and gesture in plain focus with the power to move to tears, inspire or repel. Sadly, we have become too addicted to screens in our modern age. As such we prefer to do relationships from behind the safety of a screen. I too have become enmeshed in this new normal by calling my husband from upstairs to ask him a question rather than make the effort to go downstairs and talk face- to- face.
We are missing out on the human sense of being heard. We are being reduced to voices and messages which can be played over and over again rather than mortal, finite beings who have a limited amount of time and energy to give. This what makes us precious – we will not be here forever and time is a limited commodity. Now thanks to the media, people can be uploaded and downloaded at will. We can live forever in cyberspace.
We fail to realise that the living, breathing human being who responds and interacts can never be cloned or reproduced. If we really value one another, we need to sacrifice our time and money to reach out to one another. You will never truly feel loved if no-one sacrifices for you. Individualism is the philosophy which is ruling the masses. We feel no sense of loyalty or accountability to God and significant others.
This nineteen year old may have been crying out for help but it is obvious that his communication with the other chat room users was not motivated by love. Love never seeks to leave such a brutal legacy. It seems more like an act of hatred or vengeance. If we truly love, we will want to stick around to be of service and to encourage the world-weary. Fellow-travellers on life’s difficult road.
We need a revival of community spirit whereby people look out for each other and become each other’s keeper. Secrets and lies always precede tragedy. When the communication lines between family members, neighbours and best friends become closed, issues become buried and not resolved.
Rather than viewing it as a medical problem, Durkheim (1897) saw suicide as caused by the failure of people to become adjusted to or integrated into society and to absorb its values and norms. As a result, he maintained, people with strong group ties are less likely to commit suicide. They are more sensitive to the standards and expectations of the group, including opposition to group dissolution and suicide, and more susceptible to the enforcement of those standards. It follows that an important deterrent to suicide by distressed or depressed people is involvement and identification with others. [Death, Dying and Bereavement]