Over the course of six hours, 18-year-old high school student Ashley Billasano took to her Twitter feed to describe the nightmares she'd endured during her short life, including molestation and forced prostitution. After 144 tweets, she killed herself. No one tried to stop her.
According to Fox News in Houston, more than 500 people followed Billasano on Twitter. Surely a few of those followers were online when she began tweeting about her first suicide attempt; the day she told one of her teachers and police detectives about being abused; the moment she received the news that "there [wasn't] enough evidence" to prosecute the man who had allegedly abused her; and how hearing that news left her feeling helpless. "That's when I changed I didn't care anymore and the people I was meeting gave me no reason to," she wrote.
"I'd love to hear what you have to say but I wont be around," Billasano continued. According to Fox, her final tweet stated, "Take two. I hope I get this right." Some time after that, she suffocated herself.
Perhaps Billasano's followers didn't believe her when she began tweeting about her plans, or know her well enough to be certain of her sincerity. But still: couldn't someone have called 911? Then again, when Simone Back, a 42-year-old British woman, announced on Facebook her plan to commit suicide, her message went unnoticed by everyone who lived close enough to stop her. Tyler Clementi announced on Facebook that he was "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry"; nobody stopped him. Model Paul Zolezzi killed himself after posting a Facebook message about his suicide; ditto. And Twitter user @sandieguy announced she was going to kill herself—and would have probably gone through with it, had Demi Moore and her hundreds of thousands of followers not reached out and called the cops.
As Fort Bend County Sheriff's Department chief Craig Brady reiterated to Fox News, "It's obvious [Billasano] needed somebody to talk to and that's what I believe those tweets were ...she was trying to communicate and trying to get people to talk to her." The same was probably true for all the above mentioned suicide victims. Sadly, nobody was listening.
We all know that social media provides fertile ground for cyberbullies; how about the lifesavers and interventionists try to steal away their spotlight? We can't rely on Demi Moore and her army to save every despairing person on Facebook and Twitter (especially now, given circumstances).