To be nobody but yourself – in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. – E.E. Cummings
On Christmas Day, 2010, British charity worker Simone Back took her own life. It’s believed Simone had been experiencing relationship troubles and, as a result, felt she could take no more pain.
Gathering together a collection of pills from her medicine cabinet, Simone downed the pills and wrote her suicide note. However, instead of leaving it for those who would find her body, she posted it on Facebook.
The response was tragic.
Instead of concern and help, the majority of messages were of mockery and indifference.
She ODs all the time and she lies.
She does it all the time, takes all of her pills. She’s not a kid anymore.
She has a choice and taking pills over a relationship is not a good enough reason.
These are some of the messages that went back and forth on Simone’s wall as she was at home dying. While some of her Facebook “friends” lived within walking distance of Simone, no-one called or checked on her.
Out of 148 messages left on her wall after Simone posted, just one suggested getting her help.
Her last status update was posted at 10.53pm on Christmas Day. On Boxing Day, her body was found.
The Desolate Human Disconnection
There are over 1 billion users of Facebook. More than half log on every day. Almost half of 18-34 year olds check Facebook when they wake up, and 28% check the site before getting out of bed.
Facebook and other networks have created a cult-like connection to them. We need to be online, checking what’s happening, sharing our lives for all to see, painting a picture of who we want ourselves to be while missing the bigger picture that who we really are is more important.
This need for connection has resulted in the very opposite of what we set out to achieve in the first place. Instead of weighty connections and friendships, often all we’re really creating is an illusion of depth and relationships.
As Simone’s story highlights, the very people we crave connection with can often be the same ones who’re not there when we need them the most. In the meantime, the relationships we foster offline take a backseat and lose importance, as the social networks drag us (not always kicking and screaming) back to their domain.
We never take a break. Or do we?
Taking Back the Reins
A new Kickstarter project looks to change that damning indictment of being always-on but never “there”.
The allure of Facebook and social media remains its ability to be social while sparing us all the embarrassing realities of society – but at what cost?
The story of suicide and social media isn’t a new one and, tragically, highlights the disparity between the potential of the medium as well as the despair it can foster.
Social media has the potential to be one of the greatest “achievements” in our lives. It’s helping to democratize countries, change the minds of governments, and pull people together for a greater single cause.
Yet it’s also creating this online nation of forced connections and faux friendships, in the search for the person we think we should be more than, even when that person is perfect just the way we are.
Perhaps Take the Reins can be part of the reclamation of our true selves versus the self we feel we need to portray. It’s got to be worth a try, no?
To find out more about the Take the Reins project, please visit its Kickstarter page where you can support and donate to make the documentary happen.
Update December 30 – Emma reached her goal of $15,000 and her project will be funded.