Monday, March 03, 2008

Can Blog Posts drive people to suicide?

This is the question we are asking ourselves in wake of the suicide by Paul Tilly, who was only 40 years old when he jumped down to his death from a hotel floor in Chicago.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Tilley, Creative Director of ad agency DDB Chicago, supervised teams that created the “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign for McDonald’s and the “Dell Dude" for Dell.

Commenters on two apparently sharp-tongued blogs written by ad industry insiders, AgencySpy and AdScam, say that Paul Tilly was driven to commit suicide because he was troubled by some recent articles on these two blogs which criticized him for how he handled his job, among other things.

One post in question advised Paul Tilly to “go back to management 101”.
However, the Times story quotes a friend of Mr. Tilly saying, "it’s certainly not because of blogs".

Whatever the reason behind this extremely sad episode may be, it is true that Blogs (and social networking), being free-er by nature, can go to the edge, taking 'the subject/target' to the edge as well.

We saw this happening in Kathy Sierra harassment episode. We also must not forget Megan Meier, a 13-year-old Missouri girl who took her life in 2006 after being the target of insults on MySpace.

I suspect some bloggers will revisit Tim O'reilly's proposed Code of Ethics for Bloggers. Without going into the merits of a code, as free bloggers, we all must keep in mind that "With freedom, comes great responsibility".

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At 7:55 PM , Blogger Tish Grier said...

Hi Pramit,

I feel very bad for Mr. Tilley, but the thing is, what caused his suicide wasn't blog posts, but another possibly untreated emotional problem that many folks don't want to deal with: depression. We still have a great deal of stigma in the U.S. about depression (regardless of all the tv ads for depression meds) and that could easily cause someone in Mr. Tilley's circumstance not to seek treatment.

Further, the situation with Megan Meier shouldn't be confused with an adult committing suicide. A 13 year old is not a 40 year old--not to mention the situations being quite different...

I am, though, troubled by the anonymous blogger who is misusing anonymity for some sort of personal thrill. We need anonymity to protect those who need to have a voice in repressive regimes, or who need to be whistleblowers--not for people who simply want to reveal stuff to boost their traffic. That, IMO, is really pathetic. But our capitalist world seems to want to reward the pathetic. and that's truly the shame.

At 4:22 PM , Blogger Pramit Singh said...

I completely agree, Trish.

At 6:56 PM , Blogger Gayathri said...

My delecation about this.


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