Suicide, stigma and social media

A US sports analyst chartered his decision to commit suicide.

He didn’t have any of the usual reasons people commit suicide: ill-health, losing autonomy, etc; it was made rationally (as rationally as is possible in such circumstances), on his 60th birthday, and done to prevent any chance of deterioration.

After reading about, I recognised how it touched on a number of themes relating to social media, the way we document our lives, the way some have documented their deaths and what this could mean for reducing suicide and its stigma.

I examined it more in the Guardian.

(Comments are closed on it, unfortunately.)



Don’t let facts get in the way of a bad story

Some of you may remember Dr Eben Alexander, who had a Newsweek feature about his book Proof of Heaven. (That Newsweek went belly-up and was consumed by the Beast soon should not be seen as a causal connection). Dr Alexander, in gripping and bad Dan Brown prose describes his experience of what he considers the after life.

Sure, many people claim to have crossed over, experienced NDE (near-death experiences) but – come on! – this dude is a doctor and he wouldn’t lie. And he has a bow-tie and is a scientist-kinda-thing.

Except, yeah. He’s still wrong, mistaken and probably – as according to a new story from Esquire ($) – a slight fibber (or at least Alexander is a highly inaccurate reporter).

Michael Shermer and Sam Harris have already pointed out obvious faults. The one that we should all keep reminding ourselves is why assume the supernatural, when drug-induced hallucinations can have equal – if not more intense – effects. It makes no sense to assume validity merely because of a person’s qualifications, let alone validity based on such apparently obvious side-effects that  anyone can experience.

Why jump to Heaven when science can tell us what happened right now, on the ground? (Obviously for various reasons: financial, to sell a story, fame, a genuine yearning or belief for it to be true. Nonetheless, these are not rational moral justifications.)

Alexander’s story, however, has a worse crime than not being true: it’s also bloody boring. If you are going to fib, do us the favour of being eloquent, exciting and original. Dante, thou art not.