Deaths during live streams: The last two years have been particularly difficult for people across the world, with pandemics, deaths, isolation and social cut-offs, many have suddenly realised the importance of mental health. The recent news of a Chinese influencer dying by suicide during a live stream is another jolt for all of us.
Trigger warning: This article covers topics of suicide.
Despite the increased awareness among people when it comes to talks on mental health and therapy, only a few on social media care about it. With an increase in the number of influencers on social media, their trolls have also gathered strength.
In many instances, when an influencer shares their vulnerabilities or mental health status with their followers, there come anonymous social media accounts that troll using words, situations and narration that is often triggering to even the readers of such comment.
The friends of Luo Xiao Mao Zi alleged that she was already battling depression and the talk of dying by suicide on the live stream was to just scare the boyfriend into giving attention. This is when things spiralled and a few in the audience reportedly suggested she drink pesticide. Few raised alert but others reportedly kept quiet and watched the incident happen.
The 25-year-old vlogger then turned off the camera and called an ambulance. The next day she was pronounced dead. The stream was taking place on the Douyin app.
This is scary on many levels because unfortunately, this is not the first time when an influencer died by suicide during the live stream. Also, she was clearly asking for help in terms of mental illness. The first thing to be done was to notify an authority but instead, people chose to suggest her poison.
This incident not just raises concern over the behavioural aspect of a viewer or an audience on live stream but also why influencers are choosing to come online and die by suicide? Or asking mental health questions to a pool of people who clearly have no idea or expertise on the subject?
It is easy to blame the influencer for choosing to come on live stream, calling her fake, etc.? How can apps ensure safety in such cases?
This incident led to an outpour of anger and shock with people asking: would the situation not have happened if the app intervened while she was expressing suicidal thoughts?
A news media platform called this phenomenon ‘baiting crowd’ in which a crowd of individuals unify their aggression towards complete strangers in situations like threatened suicide. This happened offline in China in 2018, when a 19-year-old contemplated suicide after no one was taking her claims of sexual assault seriously. While she stood on the building ledge, a few people below cheered and applauded her, while some actively enticed her to jump. After her death, a case of being ‘disrespectful to life’ was filed against several onlookers.
In reaction to the influencers death, A Weibo user wrote, “The live stream was her final cry for help, but these people are pure monsters. This sickens me to the core.”
These cases are not in isolation, it reflects the larger mindset of the society which is unable to understand human grief and mistaking it for ‘fake’ or deliberately calling someone’s emotion fake. The solution to these cases needs to evolve on what an app or an internet platform can do to stop this kind of incident from taking place. The Internet has given us many empowering things but one cannot overlook the darker aspect of it.
The views expressed are the author’s own.
If you are or know someone in distress, please reach out to them with kindness and call your local emergency services.