CENTRAL OREGON COAST – News that a woman in England committed suicide on Facebook while none of her 1,048 “social network” contacts did anything to stop it doesn’t surprise locals here along Oregon’s picturesque coast who regularly learn of suicides happening in local motels, and even on the beach; while new estimates point to 5.6 million Americas having attempted suicide in recent years.
At the same time, there’s been a rash of suicides here in Eugene. Moreover, the Eugene area is heavy with Facebook users who say they are “shocked at the recent Facebook suicide.” And, it doesn’t help that Facebook is leaking more personal infromation, say sources.
According to reports out of London and the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), a woman named Simone Back posted a “chilling suicide notice on Facebook, prompting sickening messages from her online friends but no help.”
Back, 42, used her Facebook page to post the following message before taking her life on Christmas Day: “Took all my pills, be dead soon bye-bye everyone.”
The BBC report stated that “none of the 1,048 friends that Back had on the Facebook social networking site even attempted to contact her in person.”
Also, the report noted that Back’s Facebook friends did not stop by the woman’s home to check on her.
Back’s mother, Jennifer Langride, is asking what good is Facebook if not one of her daughter’s thousand plus social networking readers could do anything to prevent her from committing suicide .
Back lived in an apartment (a flat) in the trendy seaside resort town of Brighton; that’s about an hour’s drive south of London.
Meanwhile, the BBC report noted that Sussex Police “are not treating her death as suspicious,” but an inquest has been opened to see if Facebook contacts could have prevented the suicide.
Suicides common along Oregon coast
Dozens of people commit suicide along Oregon’s picturesque coastline each year, with the start of the New Year especially busy for local police investigating those who ponder, and then take their own lives in quaint and compact motel rooms that face the mighty Pacific Ocean.
“Some spend the day like any typical tourist. While will simply check in and do it. It’s probably the most under reported story these days, but massive amounts of people are killing themselves and nobody seems to notice,” says retired newspaperman Stan Blish of Florence, Oregon.
Suicide is a crushing word for more family members these days as social networking sites such as Facebook create new opportunities for the classic suicide note or notice.
Blish also noted that “it takes something like this woman in England killing herself on Facebook, or the Rutgers student (Tyler Clementi) to sort wake people up about how fragile people are. I mean this kid takes his life after an internet posting. That says a lot about this point I’m making about people being more fragile today.”
Many suicide prevention programs nationwide are pointing to Clementi’s suicide as a way and means to wake America up to this number one killer of teens and young people.
Clementi’s suicide “also put the spotlight on something that happens each and every day in our country. Youth are taking their own lives,” says Blish.
As to why anyone would take their own life, this former journalist says, “there are hundreds of reasons. But, in general, they quit when life gets too tough handle. I think the most terrible thing in the world for a parent is to hear your kid committed suicide,” he adds.
Most social science experts agree that the subject of suicide is still a taboo subject in America. For instance, check any local newspaper obituary listing and the line that reads “family chose not to list cause of death” is code for suicide.
According to the American Association of Suicidology, suicide “is the leading killer in America.”
The association recently told Congress that this lingering recession is making suicide numbers rise.
Suicide claiming the lives of more than 50,000 people annually in the United States, states the association. On average, “one person dies by suicide every 12 minutes in America.” In addition, an estimated 100,000 suicide attempts are made in the U.S. each year and males complete suicide 5.5 times more often than females.
Also alarming is the latest report by the association that estimates 5.6 million living Americans have attempted suicide.
To help remedy this situation, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services is now in its 10th year of managing the “National Strategy for Suicide Prevention” that’s monitored by the Office of the Surgeon General and coordinated by dozens of federal suicide task forces who support thousands of state and local community organizations.
Oregon Stories: Suicide at the seashore
Along a stretch of Oregon coastline that’s as remote as one can find in this day and age is a string of motels that have the reputation of being “suicide places” come the dark and gray months of fall and winter when, for whatever reasons, draws people to the seashore to take their lives.
Vance Emerson who works at one of these central Oregon coast motels, and doesn’t like to talk about the people he’s found in their rooms.
“They are all sorts of people. Young and old, rich and not so well off. They leave behind all the got or ever will have and decide to kill themselves. There’s no good way to say it,” says Emerson with a tinge of sadness in his eyes.
Facebook leaking personal information
While Facebook, one of the largest web sites in the world, said it’s resolved problems of leaking personal information, local Palo Alto computer expert Frank Nasburg says there’s still problems with “Facebook hemorrhaging data” that users may not know about.
In addition, some Facebook applications are still “leaking” user information using Facebook UIDs to interested third party companies who pay big bucks for such information.
“What’s worrisome is the Facebook apps in question have a fantastic combined user base that should be doing a lot of good, but there’s mostly used for people playing games,” adds Nasburg.
Moreover, an Internet site for the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, states that more than 65 percent of people who’ve use Facebook, and then filed for divorce, have also used it as a primary source for online divorce evidence because “there’s so much personal information for the world to see.”
The problem is based on a regular security problem where a Facebook user’s ID may be inadvertently shared by a user’s Internet browser.
At the same time, another problem with security and Facebook surfaced when Canadian Internet expert Ron Bowes used “crawler software” to search for personal information about Facebook users and then went public with his findings.
“Facebook helpfully informs you that anyone can opt out of appearing here by changing their search privacy settings, but that doesn’t help much anymore considering I already have them all and you will too, when you download them,” says Bowes on his blog.
“Once I have the name and URL of a user, I can view, by default, their picture, friends, information about them, and some other details. If the user has set their privacy higher, at the very least I can view their name and picture. So, if any searchable user has friends that are non-searchable, those friends just opted into being searched, like it or not,” he adds.
Facebook has been plagued with people losing control of their information since November 2007 when it launched “Beacon,” an advertising system that told one’s friends about your buying habits.
As for taking responsibility for people doing such things as committing suicide on Facebook, the site has no comments “per such personal issues does not compute,” say users.