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Suicide by Facebook. Are we done yet?

photo by the author

I discovered it four days late—tagged in a photo with the victim singing in our band 25 years back.

The victim wrote plainly, "I am done," two confused replies added a sting of loneliness. A third comment posted four days later by the spouse furnished news of the wake and that the cause of death was suicide. 

Grief by Facebook followed. The tagged photo of me? From someone's almost immediate attempt to memorialize the victim after hearing the news. I only saw the photo and not the whole thread, and replied to it through the familiar gauze of social media's intimacy of distance—assuming the victim would be alive to hear my thoughts. Moments later, as I scrolled through the outpouring of grief from a variety of strangers and hard-remembered friends, I realized my uncanny timing. I seduced myself into the game of electronic nostalgia and discovered I was out of lives.

As the media plunders Robin William's story for every ounce of pain imaginable, I am forced to compare the two varieties of hurt torquing at my heart. We are in an era of visible invisibility. From celebrities to forgotten high school heartbreakers, we don't know where we are, and yet everyone can see us. Every butcher string we tie between every tin can in our beguiling web of connections, risks being abandoned in a bed of knots and scrap metal. I am constantly wondering if I'll ever manage to unravel it all and produce a moment of clarity—of fantastic blinding truth—before I fall prey to the slumber of connection burnout.

in an era of infinite boutique avatars and chat rooms, here's to opting for more time spent in the breathing space of others and on the plain ground. Virtual connection is amazing. But I think it is a baby step toward more expansive, ancient, intuitive connection, where silence, intimacy, nature, and solitude are the unlimited bandwidth required for transformation.

To Facebook, I want to ask, "Are we done yet? Have we learned what we came here to learn?"

You can read about Facebook's suggestions to online suicide threats here, posted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. A useful suggestion is to respond by offering the person a hotline. (1.800.273.TALK (8255).