What has the Internet become? And what are people making it?
Since we live in an age where technology is everything and everywhere, most of us have some type of outlet on the internet and while for most of us, it doesn’t serve to satisfy any emotional problems or insecurities, there are many young, vulnerable, and insecure people who feel that there is nowhere else to turn. Online chatrooms, forums, social networks all are places where people confess secrets and post personal information everyday.
In November of 2008, nineteen year-old Abraham Biggs began posting about his potential suicide on a body building forum. Other users mocked him with ridicule and encouragement to follow through. He posted a long detailed suicide note about his life that he felt ‘meaningless’ and went on to overdose on prescription medicine while streaming to the same website. Even while watching the video, users continued posting horrible messages.
Megan Meier was a thirteen year-old who had battled depression. A former friend, along with her mother, created a fake Myspace account, pretending to be a boy that liked Megan. After so long, they began sending cruel messages, making Megan think that her online ‘crush’ had spread rumors about her. She was bombarded with online comments about her weight and her insignificance. The last message she sent to her fictitious boyfriend was “You are the type of boy a girl would kill herself over.” In October of 2006, Megan committed suicide.
Although lots of people have gotten some type of information warning them to be careful about giving away too much information online, very few have been given training or instruction on how to act sensitively when someone else is putting his or herself out there.
Postsecret.com, a website with a very different vibe than the previous two that i described, explains itself as “an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.” Secrets range from hidden feelings, insecurities, fears, hopes, and realizations. Each one is very personal and is presented beautifully and artistically. The only comments are messages in solidarity with the people sharing their secrets. People confess having similar ones, or provide some type of comfort and positive enforcement for those who’ve participated.
Recently, someone on Post Secret revealed a feeling of being unwanted as an undocumented resident and a plan to commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate. Unlike in the other two cases, the response from fellow users was extremely supportive. But since all of the postcards are anonymous, it is impossible for anyone to contact the user directly. However, Post Secret users and immigrant rights activists have come together in a Facebook group with thousands of members dedicated to this person and others like him or her called ‘please don’t jump.‘ Another group of Post Secret users in San Francisco went to the Golden Gate bridge, writing uplifting messages encouraging anyone there not to jump.
This is not to say that most online environments are getting any more positive because I certainly do not believe that. But this is to point out that positive internet communities do exist and since internet is a growing part of our society I think it important for people to support and be supported by places like Post Secret in cultivation of a overall safer online culture.