A top exec at one of Chicago’s biggest advertising agencies recently jumped to his death from a hotel roof here in Chicago. He was highly visible in the industry and had been frequently pilloried by bloggers covering the advertising world. New York Times:
“We’re certainly used to criticism in the agency business,” said Nina DiSesa, chairwoman of McCann Erickson Worldwide’s New York division, who posted comments … in defense of Mr. T______, whom she called a friend. “But when blogs attack someone personally, without justification, and they do it anonymously, it’s just wrong.”
I think there’s a certain level of internet literacy that a lot of people have to learn. The internet is a high school populairty contest and the wild wild west combined – a place where it is always sweeps week. That anybody can say anything online is both truly wonderful and sometimes truly revolting – and until you really meet someone in person you don’t know for sure exactly who they are (anybody that has done their fair share of online dating can attest to this). I feel the benefits of anonymous commenting and unmoderated discussion far outweigh the potential for abuse. At the same time the Greater Internet F______ Theory will always hold true – normal people + anonymity + audience equals well… you know (nsfw).
There will always be a certain level of corrosive bitterness online – and offline.
The Times tries to lump this in with the suicide of a 13-year old Missouri girl where one of her friend’s mother had created a fake persona and coordinated a campaign to mentally degrade the young girl via MySpace.
Since many agencies are now part of publicly held companies… employees are under increasing pressure to show short-term results, where in the past they might sometimes have had more than a year or two to build a successful campaign.
Which kinda points the blame for the high-tension atmosphere on the actual industry and the economics of advertising.
A colleague of the exec added some perspective:
“I know it [the comments] bothered him,” the colleague said, referring to the public criticism. “However, he was very intelligent, with lots of talents and skills, and this was not his whole life. Pointing to blogging and the media just trivializes a man whose life was not trivial.”
An industry leader, father and husband killed himself – and I think to elevate the rantings of a few embattled blog commenters short-circuits examining the man’s own inner life for clues to this hopelessness.