A 19-year-old committed suicide live on the internet while being egged-on by watchers, the Times reported on Friday.
Abraha Biggs, a teenager from Broward County, Florida, took an overdose of pills while broadcasting from his webcam on Justin.tv watched by 1,500 viewers.
Biggs had told chatroom users that he was planning to kill himself, but to begin with no one took his threats seriously and several people even accused him of acting. It was only after he had not moved for several hours that viewers contacted the police.
On another bodybuilding forum he posted a suicide note that read: “”I am an a@#hole. I have let everyone down and I feel as though I will never change or never improve. I am in love with a girl and I know that I am not good enough for her.
“Please forgive me all for taking my own life so early. I tried so hard to fight against this strong battle. I have reached out for help so many times, and yet I believe, I was turned away because of the things I did, that it is a punishment I am willing to take, for I know that being who I am has only brought myself and others pain.”
In a statement outside their home, his father, a maths professor, said: “It’s unimaginable. I don’t want to watch what’s out there.There seems to be a lack of control as to what people put on the internet.”
Last year, a British father-of-two killed himself while streaming on the Paltalk website. Kevin Whitrick, 42, was the first British ‘online suicide’ after he hung himself while being watched and goaded by more than 100 people on the internet.
According to media reports at the time, one chatter urged him:
“Go on, jump! I’m waiting. Look at him wriggling – he can’t even kill himself properly!”
Another source was quoted as saying: “We couldn’t believe he was doing it – it was surreal.”
These incidents are part of a growing trend of online suicides. According to one charity which works to prevent suicide, there have been at least 17 deaths in the UK since 2001 which involved chatrooms or sites which give advice on suicide methods.
Earlier this year 17 young people committed suicide in Bridgend, South Wales. Many argued this spate of deaths was down to the influence of social networking sites which romanticised death.
Bridgend MP Madeleine Moon said: “The worrying part about internet sites is it is a virtual world – it isn’t a real world. The things that happen there don’t necessarily demonstrate the consequences.”
A Home Office survey of UK households in 2008 found that nearly 16.5 million households – 65 per cent of the population – had internet at home, up eight per cent on 2007.
Another survey in 2007 found that people between 15 and 25 were 25 per cent more likely to be online than other age groups and spent 24 per cent more time on the internet than the average user.
The internet has fast become an integral part of most British teenagers’ lives but what impact this will have on current and future generations remains largely unknown. The number of internet suicides has risen dramatically in recent years. Yet why and how internet communities are influencing young people remains an unsolved mystery.
The government has responded by threatening tighter controls on “harmful and distasteful” suicide sites, as well as erecting barriers at well-known “jump points” and setting up “suicide patrols” to watch over sites. But in a country where street violence has claimed the lives of 23 teenagers this year in the capital alone, this sounds like little more than virtual insanity.