There were dramatic scenes at a Stoke-on-Trent office block today after a 34-year-old accountant threatened to commit social networking suicide by closing his Facebook account.
Colleagues have described how they watched in horror as Derek Short, from Uttoxeter, Staffs, tried to access Suicidr, a controversial website that allows users to delete themselves from social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Myspace.
‘He’d been acting strange for a while,’ claimed line manager Harvey Powell, ‘not updating his status as frequently as he used to and such. Then he started talking about women and football, and how he was too busy playing five-a-side with his new girlfriend’s colleagues to go on his PC at home nowadays – in retrospect the signs have been there for a while now. I feel guilty that I didn’t pick up on it and post something on his wall.’
Another workmate, data-entry technician Sue Dormer, became concerned after Short started to become more extrovert at work. ‘He began to lose weight and act with confidence. Alarm bells started to ring after he told me he’d been playing some form of three-dimensional Scrabble with a real board outside of Facebook. I didn’t really understand what he was talking about. I tweeted my concerns, but nobody took any notice.’ A distressed Dormer described Short’s belief that farms were real places where food is ‘grown’, instead of cute little sources of entertainment with virtual cows and stuff.
A specially trained negotiator was called in to defuse the situation by continually ‘poking’ Short, while a team of electronic counsellors repeatedly accessed his seldom-visited blog in an attempt to improve its hit rate. After a tense stand off, Short eventually relented and agreed to stop looking out of the window at what he termed ‘the real world’, and return to Mafia Wars, to cheers from colleagues.
Suicidr hit the headlines in 2008 after a spate of teenage ‘copycat’ deletions, which left MySpace with virtually no users in certain broadband hotspots, while the Scottish government has responded by posting a draft assisted suicide bill on its Facebook wall, which 60 MSPs have ‘liked’.
28 January 2010