Alert: The Dark Side of Chats - Internet without Boundaries

Article excerpt

In one of the discussion groups over the Internet the following question appeared: "Does anyone know what would be the best way to suicide with an M-16 rifle? What do you aim for? The head? From what direction do you point the weapon to the head? Please be specific. Thank you, Gönner." Gönner 's real name is Eran Aderet.

On April 5th Eran is due to celebrate his 20th birthday. Eran does not celebrate like most of us do. In fact, Eran does not celebrate at all. Eran suffers from clinical depression and passes his days with the help of two main elements: Prozac and the Internet. The Prozac prevents him from hurting himself and the Internet provides him with company. The web has become a sanctuary for social outcasts. The various discussion groups on the web allow these individuals to assume an identity, reinvent themselves and make friends. True, we are not referring to friends who hug and kiss, we are not talking about people with appearances or voices, but we are referring to a wonderful escape route for lonely individuals into a wide lonely world.

It is still early to scientifically research the effects of the Internet on the Uves ofthose who are considered "Internet addicts." Is the web really a system that allows them a better Ufe? Saves them from loneUness? Eran's case shows us otherwise.

Eran is a member of a discussion group dealing with the topic of suicides. What is perceived as taboo and sick in the real world takes on a totaUy different meaning in this new world. OriginaUy, this discussion group was set up to discuss the question of why the percentage of suicides is higher during the hoUdays, but soon the group became a place where individuals could discuss death. When entering the site I encountered the foUowing slogan: "aplace of discussion for individuals who view suicide as an option."

Further on, it is explained that one can participate in the discussion groups and freely render an opinion regarding suicide and how to achieve it. Where else can people suffering from depression and suicidal tendencies discuss their wish to die so freely? This discussion group aUows many people to do so, without any kind of psychological supervision.

This group has four types of discussions. There are those who write about their private Uves and finaUy get to be heard. There are non-personal inteUectual postings on non-personal inteUectual thoughts, such as "Ufe sucks." There are those who encourage and try to respond to everyone in an optimistic manner and point out the beauty of life, and there are whole discussions on how to die. Techniques, methods. There are those who discuss for hours what the best way is to die.

"It's a Scene, its part of the death culture"

A. was Eran's friend. A. is an overweight guy, a formerly reUgious Jew, who suffered from suicidal behavior. He also belongs to aU those "Internet addicts" and even has an impressive website of his own. On A.'s website, including other things, there are also discussions about suicides among homosexual teens. Eran searched the web for a site deaUng with suicides and found A.'s website. This is how they met.

I ask A. about the meaning behind aU this talk of death. "It's a Scene. Its part of the death culture. UsuaUy if someone posts a question dealing with suicide it means that they want to empathize with this scene and not commit suicide," A. answers. I turn on the computer and we both look at publications on how to die using cyanide. "I was once involved in a long discussion on how to produce cyanide from the leaves of berry bushes. I was not actually interested in this for practical reasons but as part of the Scene."

Eran's name on the web was Gönner, meaning someone who has left, is no longer. When the members of the group read his question about how to commit suicide using an M- 16 they must have thought that this question, like his name, was part of the Scene. A number of people answered Eran. Some with taunting responses, some with humor, some with serious responses. …