Living (and dying) online

These days we do so much of our living online I suppose it should come as no surprise that people are now choosing to die online.

Bill Zeller chose to end his life in a very public way: he went to his Facebook account and wiped his entire profile, leaving in place a letter that explained why he was choosing to to die. He also emailed a copy of the letter to a large group of friends at 6.57 on the morning of  January 2 and then tried to hang himself.

He was found 10 minutes later and taken to hospital but never recovered. He died three days later.

The 27-year-old was working towards a doctoral degree in computer science. He already had a master’s degree from Princeton, a bachelor’s degree and was recognised as being a man with a brilliant mind.

However, he was also a man who had endured an awful childhood and who felt he couldn’t continue trying to live his life.

I don’t understand suicide so can’t even begin to get my head around what drives someone to take their own life. I think it’s pretty safe to say we’ve all had crappy times in our lives but most of us just get on with things.

However, Mr Zeller’s letter that he left for the world explains in painful detail just why he wasn’t coping: it recounts him being the victim of repeated sexual abuse as a small child, of his earliest memories involving being raped.

Again, I don’t understand suicide and having witnessed the pain of those left behind I’ve always viewed it as being an incredibly selfish act. However, I guess none of us will ever fully understand how someone else is feeling and most of us are lucky enough not to have experienced the trauma Bill Zeller experienced.

And at least he explained why he chose to die, because that seems to be the biggest heart-breaker for suicide families: those unanswered questions.

There have been several suicides both promoted and played out online in the past, with teens and adults who had been tormented on the web and in real life taking their own lives when it all became too much for them to handle.  All of these cases have been awful, but some have been worse than others: the case of 42-year-old Kevin Whitrick springs to mind. While logged on to a Paltalk  “insult” chat room he put a rope around his neck and stepped off a chair. He was egged on by some of those using the chat room.

At least in this case, the decision was entirely that of Bill Zeller. A death is always sad but I suppose for Bill Zeller, a life of torment was even worse.



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