July 11, 2017
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Excessive texting and social media can kill you

On June 16, Michelle Carter was convicted guilty of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. The reason? The court found her responsible for the death of her late boyfriend, marine salvage Captain Conrad Roy, who committed suicide through carbon monoxide poisoning. The unusual case shook the world two years ago when it first came to public not just because of a life that was tragically cut short, but also the events that led to the disastrous occurrence.

Photo courtesy of People

On July 13, 2014, Roy’s lifeless body was found inside his parked truck in a K-Mart parking lot in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. The investigating team was also able to retrieve Roy’s phone, which contained hundreds of incriminating text messages wherein Carter pushed him to take his own life. Lines such as,

“You better not be bull sh*ting me and saying you’re gonna do this and then purposely get caught”

“No, you’re not, Conrad. Last night was it. You keep pushing it off and you say you’ll do it but u never do. Its always gonna be that way if u don’t take action”

“You just need to do it Conrad or I’m gonna get you help”

were recklessly sent days leading to Roy’s suicide, but it was the final phone call that sealed the court’s decision–Carter commanded Roy to “get back in” after he stepped out of his truck while it was getting filled with poisonous gas.

Can words kill?

Photo courtesy of CNN

What baffled officers the most is the medium used in the crime. Assisted suicide is not at all an uncommon occurrence, but how was Carter able to wield such influence over her boyfriend’s decision to take his own life even if she’s miles away from him and the scene? More importantly, were her words enough to indict her of manslaughter?

According to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Windsor, excessive texting and social media are detrimental to an individual’s ability to self-reflect. Not only do these habits cause obsession with one’s image, it also affects the ability to make conscious decisions in issues tied with morality. This perceived shallowness was observed in Carter, who apparently utilized the tragedy as a way to gain more attention. After Roy’s body was found, Carter released a series of tweets that hung heavy with sympathy–as if she didn’t know what happened prior to the discovery.

Photo courtesy of Daily Mail

The couple met while on vacation in Florida in 2012, and since then has maintained a romantic online relationship. Prior to Roy’s death, the then-teenagers haven’t seen each other in over a year. They communicated mostly through text messaging, which isn’t unusual, considering that people their age would prefer that method instead of picking up the phone. Moreover, adolescents nowadays find it easier to admit deep-seated feelings through SMS. Roy, who was already suffering from depression and social anxiety due to his parents’ divorce, probably wanted to seek support from Carter. She did offer assistance at first before she took a dark turn.

Coercion or free speech?

The court is convinced that if not for Carter’s encouragement, the suicide wouldn’t have taken place. However, her defendants–which include the Massachussetts branch of the American Civil Liberties Union–beg to differ. She was within her bounds of free speech, they claim. Furthermore, Professor Robert Weisberg of Stanford Criminal Justice Center thinks that “the mere possibility that this would be a crime in Massachusetts would make people afraid to even have that [end-of-life] discussion”.

 

We may not know the primary motivation of both parties that led them to commit their damning actions, but one thing’s for sure: it could have been avoided. Be wary of signs of mental health issues and smartphone addiction, and don’t be afraid to seek help from proper authorities if needed.