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”.

Entitled Take the Reins, and created by Australian actress Emma Barrett, the project aims to hold up a mirror to today’s society while asking the simple question,

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.

Take the Reins by Emma Barrett — Kickstarter

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12 comments
Danny Brown
Danny Brown

EmmaBarrett1 Hi Emma, Sorry to hear about the failed transactions - here's hoping Indiegogo makes up the difference, good luck!

Ivan Widjaya
Ivan Widjaya

This fear is quite common than you think. In fact, this is the driving force that pushes people to be successful. But then it always pays to be gentle to oneself. It helps to be able to realize that you are not perfect and you can only do your best.

Belinda Summers (@belindasummers)
Belinda Summers (@belindasummers)

I'll be a hypocrite if I say I never did some #selfie back then yet this behavior on Facebook sounds alarming and that changes has to start within us. I guess we're on the same boat with this Danny. It's like our online lives matters more than our actual life. I can't say that we can live without the data since our world never turn backwards, progress has been keeping us forward but still people still need to be responsible not to drown themselves with the bad effects carried by innovation.

Josh
Josh

I hope more people see this post because the message is important and powerful. Hope you and the family had a great holiday season.

Diana Black
Diana Black

Thanks Emma and Danny for this and best of luck with the project. This is an important documentary. A clarion call that has the potential to contributes much to the future development of society. I think we as a species forget that we are an animal and still driven by primal instincts and base desires. People get so caught up in the 'day-to-day', that they forget to be introspective and take stock of themselves and their relationships. Another issue is that of friending/unfriending - how many acceptances of friend requests are made (no unfriending) go on simply because they don't want to be seen as unsociable or that someone might be a connection that one can 'use' - ghastly, rather sad and all based on fear. As an ex science educator who's transited completely into the creative industry field (actor and emerging screenwriter), I have had over the years had the privilege and honor to 'make a difference'. You are right...if we stand back and don't speak up against unethical behavior and lead by sincere example, the bastards will have won. Currently still to make serious $$ with a screenplay but when I do will send some $$ your way. For my own creative projects I refuse to step up and take on projects that don't have an important underlying statement to make - one that engenders empathy for the other (human or otherwise). Best wishes for the Festive season and the New Year Cheers, Diana.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

There was a stat somewhere, that shared Facebook was the biggest cause of divorces, due to the time spouses were spending apart while being just a few rooms away from each other. We need to step back, enjoy and cherish what we have, and everything after that is the bonus - not the other way round.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Another issue is that of friending/unfriending – how many acceptances of friend requests are made (no unfriending) go on simply because they don’t want to be seen as unsociable or that someone might be a connection that one can ‘use’ – ghastly, rather sad and all based on fear. I think you nailed it right here, Diana. So many bought into the social media mantra "it's all about the numbers, so follow back everyone", without actually taking the time to think what that meant. The irony, of course, being the more we "connected", the less we could truly connect. Thankfully, Emma's project was funded, so perhaps we can start to take back the connections we say we have, and make them much more meaningful. Here's to a wonderful 2014 to you and yours!