In many ways, social media is one of the defining innovations of the 21st century. It allows us to connect with each other in unprecedented ways, and its ramifications, as related to everything from commerce to psychology, are still being studied and defined by experts spanning the globe.
It’s something we take for granted as a social hobby, but indeed, it colors and informs our daily lives like nothing that ever came before it. We erect our various profiles as monuments to self; living, public journals, and we use them to share the things that entertain us, information about ourselves, the sum of our very lives.
It should come as no surprise, then, that social media has had a profound impact on that ultimate and terrifying human experience we mutually understand as the absolute, inevitable termination of life itself.
We’re not just talking about that phenomenon which allows the social media profiles of the dead to remain online indefinitely as makeshift digital memorials. We’re talking about how social media has, sometimes retroactively, contributed to maiming, grievous injury, suicide, and murder.
So without further ado (and with as much respect to the following victims as possible), here’s the first chapter in a new series at Social News Daily: 101 Ways To Die From Social Media.
1. Being Stabbed IRL … Over A Facebook Fight
We all know that Facebook fights can get pretty heated, but is it possible that the social network can serve as a catalyst for real life violence? In short, yes. A Florida teenager was stabbed several times by a classmate over a Facebook fight that escalated into a real-life confrontation.
Though the stabber in question ignored his classmate’s belligerent attempts to coax him into a melee throughout the school day, he caved later in the day, produces a knife, and proceeded to stab the other teen. While the victim is expected to recover, the perpetrator now faces murder charges.
You might want to second-guess that knock-down, drag-out political debate you’re about to get into with that co-worker of yours.
2. On This Episode Of MTV’s Catfish … Murder In The 1st
MTV’s hit reality show Catfish is founded on the premise that people aren’t necessarily always honest about their true selves when they interact with others online. Social media profiles, as well as the eventual relationships established between a “catfish” and their victims, can be entirely fabricated for sinister purposes or out of something as innocent as loneliness.
Consider now the story of a 45-year-old married housewife and mother who carried on a relationship with a 22-year-old man through Facebook. He thought that she was 21, but when it finally came time for them to meet IRL, he was so distraught over being catfished that he shot his Facebook girlfriend, killing her. He then turned the gun on himself.
Your Catfish story might land you on one of MTV’s most popular shows. But there’s always a chance that it’ll shuttle you to an early grave.
3. When Social Is So Important … You Can’t Live Without It
You can joke all you like about not being able to live without the Internet, but chances are you don’t mean it literally. Several stories about individuals who did have emerged in recent years. Last fall, an Indian teenager was banned from using her Facebook page by parents who simply wanted her to concentrate on her studies. In response, she hung herself. Her suicide note read:
“Is Facebook so bad? I cannot stay in a home with such restrictions as I can’t live without Facebook.”
Ask yourself sincerely … can you really not live without the internet?
4. Death … By Selfie
Thinking about climbing on top of that really tall, really dangerous thing in order to get the ultimate selfie? Think again.
A Russian teenager recently climbed to the top of a railway bridge 30 feet off the ground. She slipped and fell, and while the fall would have been enough to kill her, she grabbed a live wire on her way down in a last-ditch attempt to save herself, only to be electrocuted with 1,500 volts.
Afterwards, a Munich University psychologist warned that the trend of risking life and limb to capture the ultimate selfie will only increase in the coming years. It’s attractive because, as he put it, “they play with danger.”
5. Escalating Social Trends Fizzle Out … When Someone Dies
On that note, you’ve heard of #planking, right? The social trend which involves laying flat as a board on mundane objects in the real world? Tempting as it can be to join the trend, these photos escalate in creativity and danger until, inevitably, someone dies.
Planking itself fizzled out in 2011 when an Australian man fell to his death after attempting to lie down flat on a balcony rail. Queensland Police warned that as individuals seeking to “outdo” each other in the planking community take greater risks, more injuries and further deaths would be attributed to the social trend.
The fad eventually gave rise to others like #owling and #whaling, which have yet to claim a human life … so far.
6. Addiction … Is A Killer
Countless individuals suffer from addiction. Alcohol dependency alone is responsible for 2.5 million deaths annually. Addiction to Facebook was responsible for at least one suicide so far this year. A 24-year-old woman found herself in the midst of an intervention by her family in March. They were concerned about her obsession with the social network, which caused her to miss chores and neglect her personal relationships in the real world. The family urged her to delete her account.
She responded by hanging herself from a ceiling fan in her room.
7. Cyberbullying Is Still No. 1
Unfortunately, most who die from social media do so by their own hand. However, an alarming number of them have one thing in common: cyberbullying. An ugly pandemic, and arguably the greatest danger of a free and unregulated internet (which, on the whole, we still strongly advocate, btw), cyberbulling has played a central role in a number of high profile teenage suicide cases over the past several years.
Much has been proposed to stem the tide of cyberbullying lately, but the difficulty is that there’s not a whole lot anyone can do about individuals who insist on being dicks.
8. Going Viral … After Death
Sometimes social media doesn’t play a factor in death until after the trigger has been pulled.
Derek Medina of Miami, Florida shot his wife in the midst of a heated argument last August. In a shocking and morbid move, Medina took a picture of his wife’s corpse and put it on Facebook with a simple “RIP” message. Later, he posted an update confessing to shooting his wife, and expressing fear that he would go to jail and face the death penalty for his crime.
He was charged with 1st degree murder, and has asked for his wife’s remains to be tested for the drug “bath salts” to support his claim that he acted in self-defense.
9. Just Be A Criminal With A Smartphone
If you’re looking for a slightly more … direct … way to die from social media, go and commit a regular crime, run from the police, and then take a break to update your Facebook status from your smartphone.
That’s what happened to Eric Ramsey of Michigan early last year. The 30-year-old was on the run from cops after allegedly kidnapping and raping a woman from Central Michigan University. Afterwards, he allegedly set a house on fire, stole a sanitation truck, and crashed two police cruisers.
As the police narrowed in on him, Ramsey posted what would end up being his last status update on Facebook: “Well folkes im about to get shot. Peace.”
Shortly after posting, he was shot and killed by a state trooper.
10. Social Media Can Just Kill You For The Heck Of It
If you’re a celebrity of any renown, social media can just arbitrarily kill you at any time. It doesn’t matter whether it’s true.
Death hoaxes, a particular favorite around the SND water cooler, usually start on satire sites or fake Facebook pages, but it’s social media and the power of sharing that cause these fictions to go viral every single time. Social media users share without verifying, and numerous sites (including Social News Daily) work quickly to put the viral spread to bed.
Ultimately, the not-so-deceased celeb will have to clarify that he or she is, in fact, still alive, but death hoaxes persist regardless.
There are a number of ways social media can kill you … literally, or otherwise.
If you spot a story online about how social media played a role in someone’s death, drop us a line on Twitter for a shoutout in our next entry in “101 Ways To Die From Social Media.”
[Images: Nina Matthews Photography, Helga Weber, Great Beyond]