The Californian

Suicide text ‘prank’

Sam Campopiano, Staff Writer

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In a world with ever-growing technological prowess, we are so wrapped up in buying the newest iPhone or gadget that we forget to ask ourselves what the actual role of technology and social media should be.

Social media is overused and  makes people less social, as the importance of face-to-face conversations declines.  It is not uncommon to see entire families on electronics at the dinner table, never speaking  to each other during the entire meal.

The average person spends nearly two hours every day on social media, which equates to a total of 5.5 years in a lifetime.

When any one of us is on our deathbed one day, we would want that 5.5 years back to do something more meaningful.

Social media originated as a way to stay in contact with friends across the globe and as a way to meet new people.  But it has turned into a hub of entertainment and, quite honestly, an obsession.  According to statista.com, 81percent of the U.S. population uses social media frequently.

Anyone can create a social media account and remain anonymous, which makes it very difficult to keep social media a safe environment.

While most people on social media may be perfectly harmless and are just looking for a few laughs, there are also plenty of people out to do harm.  It is too easy for an angry or disturbed individual to connect with others on social media and cause pain.

Although many downplay cyber bullying, it is a reality that must be accepted as technology advances.  Cyber bullying has many different forms, and many have attempted to disguise it as “pranks,” or even “social experiments.”  These “pranks” claim to be harmless, but on the contrary, pranks can often harm someone.

About two months ago, an online “prank” using social media drove a young boy to commit suicide.

On March 14, 11 year old Tysen Benz from Marquette, Michigan, hung himself, leaving no note for his family.  Benz was the middle child of three, and his mom described him as a silly, outgoing, and an extremely athletic and talented individual.

An unknown 13-year-old girl, who Benz considered his “girlfriend,” used her friend’s social media accounts to spread a rumor that she had committed suicide.  After discovering this information, Benz posted online that he was going to “kill himself.”  No one involved in the prank ever contacted an adult or reached out to help Benz.

A few hours later, Benz committed suicide.

Benz’s mother, Katrina Gross, said to CNN, “It was a sick prank meant to do harm.”

Gross said she did not give Benz permission to date at his age. It was later found out that Benz had bought a phone without his mother’s permission and was using it to text his “girlfriend.”

Benz’s “girlfriend” is currently being tried in Marquette County with telecommunication services-malicious use.

What was meant to be some kind of “prank” took the life of an innocent child with a bright future ahead of him.  While this does not represent the majority of social media users, this is not the first time cyber bullying or social media has been used to harm someone, or even worse, drive them to suicide.

What started out as a harmless way to connect with other people across the globe has quickly turned into a craze for attention and entertainment.

Social media is overused and is taking valuable time away from our lives.  This does not mean that social media cannot have a place in our society. In fact, it should.  But its current importance should be severely lessened. A world with less reliance on social media and more emphasis on face to face contact is essential.

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Suicide text ‘prank’