I have been thinking about Reckful’s death for a few days and my life goes away in understanding it. Correct, I’ve been thinking about Reckful’s suicide for days, because we are not talking about a natural or accidental death. No, we are talking about an intentional, provoked death. From a 31-year-old who has decided to kill himself and has done so. A death that, in addition, and this is the point on which I am going to focus, was actively encouraged by certain people who, I do not know, perhaps today have an important weight on their head. So it should be, I understand.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here is a summary: Reckful was quite a personality in the world of esports and streming. Back in 2010, when eSports was still starting to take off, he achieved quite a bit of recognition in the World of Warcraft community for his skills. After retiring from active competition, he became a podcaster and streamer, in addition to many other actions, such as his own series of interviews or video game development.
It is less known, but just as important, that he suffered from chronic depression, a disorder that started when, when he was only six years old, he lived through the suicide of his older brother. His closest people, including his partner, whom he had asked to marry only a few hours before killing himself, they talk about Reckful as a scared person, scared by his illness and the consequences that it could have. It does not take a lot of wisdom to conclude that there is a causal relationship between depression and self-injurious actions.
Just a few days ago, on July 2, he posted this tweet:
ahh, i feel bad for anyone who has to deal with my insanity
– Reckful (@Byron) July 2, 2020
Something was wrong, that message was one more sign of it. And yes, I say it was one more signal, because as I have already mentioned, since 2016 Reckful was a streamer on Twitch, and on more than one occasion he “broke” during a live performance. I remember hearing some voices claiming that it was something wrong and, although I usually hear all kinds of opinions, also those with which I do not agree, in those cases I pressed the mute button. I admit that I lack patience and stomach to live with those attitudes.
And this is where I wanted to go. I’ve seen some videos of the last Reckful live on Twitch, a live in which he burst into tears and in which, although an important part of the community tried to encourage him to the best of their ability, there were multiple users who encouraged a person who was suffering to kill himself. A person tormented by a devastating illness was told to commit suicide.
This is what makes my head explode and my soul fall to my feet. Because yes, I am aware that depression, like all other mental disorders and diseases, carry a huge stigma which, in addition, results in an abysmal ignorance about the symptoms and effects of the same. In many cases we cannot become fully aware of the effects that our actions and words (or the absence of both) can have on a person suffering from depression.
But that’s no excuse. I am sure that the people who told him to commit suicide in Reckful’s last live show will excuse themselves saying that it is not so bad, that their actions have not been the triggering factor, that they were not at fault. And if I am objective I must say that it is true, that we will never know the weight that his words had for Byron which, by the way, for those who forget that the streamer was a person, that was his name.
I say that it is objectively true, perhaps it was just a few comments that quickly crossed the chat of his live show, but it is also possible that it was not. It’s also possible that Reckful read them and they increased that distress that manifested in the tweet that I have previously quoted. Maybe they didn’t fill the glass, but they did overflow it. And as a person who places a lot of value on small details, intuition keeps telling me that this is exactly what happened.
These days I have spoken with coworkers, with friends, with my family … and I am unable to understand it. I can not understand what makes a person, a supposedly human being, see another person suffering and the only thing they can say is to commit suicide. What personal reward did those who told Reckful take his own life get? And then, knowing that he had done it? I can understand that a person desires the evil of others when it is translated into their own benefit, but what about in this case? And in these cases?
A few weeks ago, when I wrote about the complaints received by Twitch based on the DCMA, I suggested that the platform, which I have said on other occasions that I am a regular user, should take to care for the streamers. And today more than ever I am clear that they are necessary. And not only on Twitch, no, also on Twitter, on Instagram, on Facebook, on Youtube … online toxicity is a problem, a more serious problem than many people think.
Freedom of expression?
What if, I do not need anyone to remind me of freedom of expression, gray hair has come out defending itBut I have reached a point where I have not, in which I refuse to accept that people like those who told Reckful to commit suicide can take refuge in freedom of expression, and I think that punitive measures against those who lead to Such actions should be forceful enough that they will no longer be commonplace in the future. Freedom of expression is something else.
And I am clear that the platforms are not directly responsible for it, but that they must do more and more to prevent and punish this type of conduct in the services they offer. They must pursue toxicity and expel it, and this is limited both to specific users and to communities that, with their attitude, demonstrate that they are structured in toxicity. I am afraid, although I hope I am wrong, that the KYS (kill yourself, commit suicide) of the Reckful chat will be very cheap for their authors. And that is what should change. Soon.
And I don’t want to end without saying that these days I have remembered a lot about Aaron Swartz, another stupid and unacceptable death in which depression and toxicity (in that case that demonstrated by copyright advocates beyond comprehension) truncated a vital project. And no, I’m not comparing Swartz with Reckful, basically because they are not comparable. I am just saying that in both cases, the action of the human being has, eventually, had a fatal effect on the lives of two young people who, today, should continue to be with us.
I don’t know, it’s Sunday afternoon, maybe I should stop thinking about toxicity, about Aaron and Byron’s suicides and about the stigma of mental illness and disorders. Maybe I should stop listening to post-rock (This Will Destroy You, in case you were wondering), maybe I should close the browser and go into Kind Words for a while to reconcile a little with the human being. Or maybe go to the Reckful channel to see the replays of their best moments. Or not, better yet, I think I’m going to make a call to someone who maybe needs it. The same is a good time for you to do it too.