1. Opinion

Daniel Ruth: Making fun of suicide victims is no LOL matter

What have we become when a mouse pad is turned into a weapon of mass stupidity?

It was a short story that also spoke volumes about the darker side of human behavior.

Last Sunday a man jumped off the Sunshine Skyway bridge, tragically not an altogether uncommon experience. After the news appeared on the Tampa Bay Times website, it didn't take long for the usual suspects to show up in the comments section, including some who described the victim as a "loser" and a "coward."

And at least 22 people — that's 22 — clicked on the LOL icon. A troubled man leaps to a horrible death and 22 people thought it was laugh-out-loud funny.

What have we become? It's not pretty.

In another life, I once volunteered as a suicide counselor at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. It was rewarding, but emotionally draining work. Over the three years or so I manned the phones, to the best of my knowledge, I only lost one caller. One too many.

Before I was allowed to take calls, I had to undergo extensive training, which I suspect is even more elaborate today.

One of the first things you learn is that every single one of us has the potential to take our lives. A vast majority of us also have very high levels of tolerable stress. But we all have a breaking point. Heap enough trauma on one's shoulders — loss of a job, loss of a marriage, loss of a home, a painful illness, etc., etc., etc. — and anyone could find themselves standing on the edge of the Skyway contemplating the abyss.

Perhaps the LOL creeps think they're immune to pondering ending their lives. They're not. They simply aren't smart enough to figure out how all those etceteras can be so fatal.

They don't understand much about death. They certainly know nothing about common decency.

But even more troubling is that there are people among us who are happy to post an online comment advertising their status as a world class cyber boob. Sort of.

The problem, of course, is that so much of online commenting is done anonymously, making it easier for keyboard poltroons to write whatever they want without the accountability — without the shame.

We all know if the LOL dolts had to actually attach their real names to their drooling, the cruel assault on a suicide victim never would have taken place.

The attack of the cyber stooges is the disquieting consequence of social media.

There are people without the courage of their convictions who choose to hide in the nether shadows of the Internet, where reputations mean nothing and the truth means even less.

They cook up their phony little names, for their phony little diatribes that in the sunshine they never would espouse, or admit to.

Gutlessness abounds.

Who is the real LOL loser, the real LOL coward here?

And if any of you faceless dimwits have problem with this, well, you know where to find me. My name is at the top of this column.

A lost soul in an unfair fight with his demons preferred a final act.

It is presumptuous to wonder why he didn't seek a different path for help rather than nearly 200 feet off a ledge.

We'll probably never know.

But regardless of what brought him to the Sunshine Skyway, he is entitled to a modicum of respect, rather than a callous cyber lynching.

What have we become?