Streaming Suicide

  December 3, 2013    by Carl Straumsheim   A student at the…

Georgia (Dec 3, 2013)

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December 3, 2013

A student at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, found a disturbing use for social media on Saturday: broadcasting his own suicide attempt to hundreds of viewers. Student counselors and mental health experts decried the act as exhibitionism, saying it could cause a ripple effect among students thinking about suicide.

“Tonight I will be ending my own life,” a user going by the pseudonym “Stephen” announced on the imageboard 4chan on Saturday night. “I’ve been spending the last hour making the preparations and I’m ready to go through with it…. All that I request is for you guys to link me to a site where I am able to stream it for you guys, then I will gladly fulfill my promise.”

Members of 4chan complied with his request, creating a temporary video chat room on that soon filled to its maximum occupancy of 200 viewers.

The thread has since been removed, but not before snippets were was saved to a screenshot

Since it was founded in 2003 to discuss Japanese anime and comics, 4chan has cultivated a bizarre and, more often than not, offensive subculture that has flourished under the protection of online anonymity. In particular, its “Random” section, known as /b/, regularly features gore and porn alongside the latest Internet memes. The site has a strong following among college students.

Stephen has been identified by some 4chan users, but Inside Higher Ed is not using his name out of concern for his health. He claimed to have been a regular poster on 4chan since 2004. In 4chan terms, he was an “oldfag” (a longtime user) preparing to “an hero” (take his own life). Stephen studies criminal justice and public policy at the University of Guelph, according to his Facebook profile. The profile references the same “doge” meme involving a Shiba Inu that Stephen used as a nickname during his broadcast: “LOLdoge.”

Footage from the suicide attempt is still available on the video site LiveLeak. In the video, Stephen is seen setting a fire in a corner of his dorm room in in Dundas Hall, East Residence. As smoke begins to fill the room, Stephen crawls under his bed. The frame grows steadily darker over the next 30 minutes until firefighters carrying flashlights burst into the room, locate Stephen, then carry his motionless body away.

The university has urged its students not to view or share the footage, but the story about the suicide attempt, first reported by The Daily Dot, hit dozens of websites by Monday afternoon. Student counseling professionals said the media attention could undermine the broader issue of suicide prevention among college students. …

Others said the live broadcast goes well beyond a cry for help. Josh E. Gunn, president of the American College Counseling Association, said streaming the suicide attempt in some ways downplays its severity.

“With a lot of people who attempt suicide, there is some level of ambivalence about it,” said Gunn, director of counseling and psychological services at Kennesaw State University. “This draw to have people watch it overpowered a strong instinct in humans for life.” …





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