31 October 2007

Something good in Facebook for a change

A friend and former colleague directed me to a really smart social marketing blog called Spare Change, written by Nedra Kline Weinreich. She writes about a Facebook group she started to support H.R. 940, the Suzanne Gonzales Suicide Prevention Act of 2007 (Suzy's Law), which would make it a crime to use the Internet to promote or encourage suicide. The bill is sponsored by Congressman Wally Herger (R-CA).

Here's the background from Ms. Weinreich:
Suzy was a bright, bubbly young lady with a quirky sense of humor from a small town in California. After she went off to college, she became depressed and turned to the Internet for support in January 2003. Unfortunately, rather than finding people who wanted to help her recover and live a long, healthy life, Suzy posted a note about her suicidal feelings to the Usenet group alt.suicide.holiday. She was met with relentless discouragement against getting help, and over the following months was encouraged by members of the group to go ahead and commit suicide. This included providing specific details on the best method of killing herself and helping her come up with a plan to carry it out. On March 23, 2003, Suzy took her own life, alone in a Florida hotel room. She was one of many such "successes" to come out of that online group.
I find it repulsive that the people who successfully encouraged this woman to kill herself are anywhere other than jail right now.

Of course, I've written extensively about my displeasure with Facebook's willingness to allow more than 350 "pro-ana" groups on its network, especially when they seem to have no problem banning pictures of breastfeeding moms. It can be easily argued that a pro-ana group is encouraging girls to kill themselves, just not quite as blatantly. So it's nice to see Facebook used in this way.

The bill once again reminds us that we can responsibly add context to restricting content without devolving into the absurd. And the group is an effective use of a social network to spread the word and provide important information.

1 comment:

thailandchani said...

I have some negative feelings about all of these social networking sites. MySpace is number one on my list of disgusting sites.. but Facebook isn't far behind.

The "anything goes" nature of them encourage all of these troubled people to be able to find each other.

If something good comes from one of them, that's great.. but I don't have much hope for the sustainability of it.