Joe Thomson Suicide in the modern world

 I used to think the world was doomed. Now I realize that it’s only me who is doomed. Others are able to struggle and find a way through life peacefully. Love seems to help. Not me—I’m not one of those people and I never have been.

-Final Blog post from Jeff Barszcz author of

Today I experienced death in an unusual way.  A man with a blog killed himself, leaving a note as his final post.  His final blog posts are a window into a troubled mind that had given up, overcome by life.

His apparent suicide exploded on twitter, with friends of his alerting police that something was wrong after his final message was posted to his blog.  By the time anyone found him he had been gone for a long time, his post had been queued and it was too late.

The effect of suicide playing out in virtual real time is something that is new to this world.  A private fact of life transformed into a public spectacle.  This would not have happened at any other time in human history, but the fact remains a very sad individual ended his battle with the world.

It says a lot about people that they tried to help only when it was too late, for many reasons it is difficult to help someone you only know through the Internet.  But the compassion is there.  People like me who didn’t know the individual at all until his suicide are drawn into the story and feel helpless as we more or less watch someone die.

The brutalities of death are lost on the modern world.  It is something we do not deal with on a regular basis.  Our food is slaughtered for us and death is something that always happens somewhere else.  Our brief encounters with it let us know that it is happening but we crowd our lives with objects and other distractions to alleviate the pain.

Maybe suicide is for the weak, but watching a man’s life unravel over the course of a few months has to make you feel something. I can’t muster the callous indifference I normally do for people I don’t know or love.

His writing drips with melancholy and an overwhelming sense of dread that he can’t quite articulate as he ruminates on the perceived failures of his life.  In his words he asks the questions that seem to plague him:

Why can’t I…
hold a job?
make friends?
meet a nice lady?
get better?

It’s heartbreaking to see someone reaching out so desperately only months before his demise. Obviously he couldn’t find what he was looking for.

You can watch the whole show on twitter. The attempts by friends to contact the police, the supportive tweeters telling him not to do it, and then the reality that it had actually happened and the aftermath of finding a home for his two cats and dealing with his personal belongings. His life condensed into a 140-character melodrama.

All of it is so troubling. His public cries went unnoted until he ended his life and confirmed to the world he was serious about his plight.  He was not just going through a hard time, or overly sensitive, he really had exhausted all of his defences to the modern world.  But it’s difficult to deal with a depressed person who airs their troubles publicly.  Do you indulge them? Are they just looking for attention? Do you preach tough love or coddle them?  It seems the only answers come after it’s too late when the true depths of the depression are known.

Cries for help are now muted screams that are swallowed up by the largely indifferent cyberspace, which churns out information at an incredible rate, but dismisses emotional pleas.  In this day and age Jeff Barszcz’s private life will remain private but his public death will forever be public, touching far more people than he ever thought possible.


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