If you follow my blog at all you’ll know that I’m often critical of how some behave when online. As a staunch believer and practitioner of Wheaton’s Law myself, I’m surprised when others can’t follow this simple adage. Young Mr. Crusher entreats us all to follow the simple mantra of “Don’t be a dick” in all of our online interactions. While this seems as though it would not be hard to follow, we all know that something happens to people when they get behind a keyboard. They seem to grow 6 inches while simultaneously losing an equal sized chip off of their shoulder. People lash out at others whether out of frustration with their lives, anger at society or sometime just to be mean. Without the accountability of having to face someone, modern civility, which is already suffering, seems to be put entirely to the side. Today I’m not here to lament the evils of modern internet acceptability however. Today I’m here to tell a story that should make you smile, that should bolster your hope about humanity.
Last night I found myself on the road, traveling to Knoxville, TN for the wedding of a good friend. As an IT guy with a wife that loves to drive, I naturally found myself on my laptop, tethered to a hot spot and logged into, among other things, my favorite IRC chat. Amongst the idle chatter, ramblings and juvenile humor, a single line proclaimed that a member of our community was attempting to save a life. This line of text stood out starkly amongst our generally inane chatter. Where normally I would find a poo joke, or a complaint of one of Blizzards many “errors”, something meaningful had been said. That line of text gave me momentary pause, I had to read it several times before it sank in that something real was happening. As the minutes past, more light was shed on what was happening.
A young man, a member of our community of gamers had decided to choose this night to attempt to take his life. I didn’t know this young man, never having mt him eiher online or off. Chances are I may never know him, but that didn’t really matter. What he was going through, I don’t truly know. I can’t say that I have any idea of his situation or what drove him to this point. Clearly the young man was troubled, and hadn’t been able to find the support or answers that he so desperately needed. Many times we hear stories of the internet driving young adults to the brink of, and sometimes over the edge of suicide. Too often we lose not only members of the gaming community but indeed the human community to bullying either online or off. The fact that children can be so cruel as to push a peer to this extreme is a sad but inevitable fact of human nature, an not something that I have the space to discuss here. Suicide is an all too often preventable cause of death, and always a cause for sadness.
The young man in my story however was pushed to a point that he made the decision that ending his life would be preferable to continuing it. He posted a photo of several packs of prescription pills, with the ominous emote X_X. Rather than questioning this young man’s sincerity, joking about it, or just scrolling to the next selfie or trending hashtag, several members of the Warcraft community stood up and took action. They choose to not stand idly by and let this young life be snuffed before its time. Several members of the community quickly rallied reaching out to the young man and doing everything that they could to help.
I don’t know a lot of the details from that point on, I didn’t ask for them because I don’t need to know, it’s not important what was said or who was able to talk to him or not. What happened next was the important detail about all this and what truly inspired me about the whole situation. These few members of the community that didn’t pause to wonder if this was a hoax, or if this was a poorly done joke, did something. In a brilliant use of internet skills a phone number and address was found, authorities were called, and police and emergency medical help was dispatched. It turned out that this young man was all too serious about ending his life, he had indeed been consuming the pills he showcased online. It wasn’t a poorly made joke, and if it had been ignored by just a few more people last night, a young man would’ve lost his life.
There was a tweet posted about 4 hours after the situation from this young man’s twitter account, recounting part of his night, and thanking the community for saving his life. I cannot express the relief I felt at seeing this tweet, at knowing that his life would continue. There’s two reasons I wrote this post, one to bring light to the fact that incredible, inspiring things happen on the internet. That sometimes the same place that can be filled with so much hate and judgement can be a light in the darkness. That for some of us the support, and love we get online, be it from the far end of the spectrum of having a life saved, or a simple kind statement helping us through a rough day. There are wonderful people, communities, friendships and acts of kindness everyday across the internet. It’s all to easy to focus on the acts of malcontents and bullies, and forget that there are good and noble people out there doing good everyday.
Finally I’d like to take a moment and speak to anyone that has considered, or is considering suicide as an option. Stop. Don’t let it be an option. I assure you that while the darkness may seem overwhelming, there is still light in the world. There are people out there that care about you, whether you have met them yet or not. Ask for help, even if you have before. Ending your life is never the right answer to your problems, no matter how big they may seem. You are worthy of living, you deserve to live, and you should not forget that. Please do not forget that. Last night shows that there is light in this world, that good things can be done by good people. Last night proves that the world is not being overwhelmed by darkness and that you don’t have to be either.