Why Arjun Bhardwaj did it: Live-streaming of suicide means making a last statement
What is compelling people to live-stream their suicide on social media? Where does one draw the line between real and virtual world? As Arjun Bhardwaj’s suicide case shocks many, we speak to experts to understand the reasons.
Is suicide-streaming the new selfie? Shocking as it may sound, the trend of people live-streaming their last moments on the earth points to a desire to be remembered — and maybe even admired, in a morbid way — after death.
The recent case that has both shocked and fascinated the nation is that of Arjun Bhardwaj, the 24-year-old, who, on April 3, checked into a posh hotel suite, and live-streamed his suicide on Facebook. In the footage, one can see him taking the final steps, as he says, “Ok, I don’t think I can record this while doing it. But f*** it, okay cool... See you guys on the other side.” And then he jumped off the 19th floor of the hotel.
Just a day after this, Bigg Boss Kannada winner and actor-filmmaker Pratham streamed a video after consuming sleeping pills. In the video, he said, “Anything that I do is being wrongly projected. I cannot take it anymore. This will be my final Facebook Live video and sorry if I have hurt anyone.” Thankfully, he was saved.
Suicide is supposed to be a lonely affair, a desperate choice made by people who feel deserted by the world. Then how does one interpret Bhardwaj’s bravado in the final moments of his life? He smoked, drank, and gave a ‘suicide tutorial’ online — actions that amazed people far more than the suicide itself, since Bhardwaj was also reportedly depressed and addicted to drugs.
Psychologist Dr Pulkit Sharma says, “Most people commit suicide because they’re depressed and hopeless. They do it silently in a closed room. But those suffering from personality issues might have a lot of anger and resentment in them. They might also be attention-seekers in some way. When they get very disturbed, they end their lives in a dramatic way. For them, that act becomes a statement. Even while ending their life, they’re happy that they’re making a kind of statement to the world. They die with the hope that their story will go into the newspapers; people will talk about them and watch their video.”
Live-streaming of suicides may be new to India, but quite a few cases have already been reported from the West. In March, an 11-year-old boy from Michigan took his life after his girlfriend faked suicide on social media. In January, aspiring Hollywood actor Frederick Jay Bowdy shot himself in the head and live-streamed it on Facebook. In the same month, a 14-year-old Miami girl live-streamed her suicide. Last December, a 12-year-old Georgia girl hanged herself and live-streamed it.
Dr Sharma says that there’s a certain ‘larger-than-life element’ to such acts. “It’s a masterstroke for becoming known, maybe to become immortal as they die,” he says.