If you posted a suicide note to your friends on an online social networking site, would anyone reach out to help? Are online friends “real” friends?
“Took all my pills be dead soon bye bye everyone.”
That was the final posting of a 42 year-old woman in England who committed suicide. Sadly, the message to her 1,048 Facebook friends went largely ignored, according to an article in USA Today.
Did she have family or friends that she could call directly? Neighbors or co-workers? Was her whole world of connections contained online? Even if some of her Facebook friends were true friends who may have reached out to her, they may have simply missed the posting.
This and other similar incidents are sparking debate about the responsibilities of the social networking sites themselves as well as the dangers of online friendships.
The Ambiguity of Social Networking
Some online networking sites have reporting systems in place so that police can be notified in emergencies. For users, though, knowing someone is in trouble is not always easy.
Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or any other only social networking site, a large number of our friends or connections may be offline when we update our status. Many will never read our latest note. Even when online, if you’ve got hundreds or thousands of friends, you’re going to miss a few things. For some users, social networking is a narcissistic one-way street. We’ve all got connections who only post but never invest time in what other people have to say.
I’m often confused by the status updates of some of my younger Facebook friends. They use language I don’t always understand and they like to post popular song lyrics as their status — it’s their way of letting the world know they are enjoying a particular song. It is entirely possible that someday I will mistake a cry for help as a song lyric.
The trouble with brief online status updates is the true meaning is often lost in the clutter. Was a message meant seriously, humorously, or sarcastically? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
Next: Are Online Friendships Real Friendships?