I have recently begun a small research project about infocide: the purposeful retraction of one’s presence and contributions from the Internet. However, naturally, one must distinguish this practice from the purposeful ending of one’s life. Both retraction and suicide have varied, and sometimes overlapping, neologisms. Internet suicide is ambiguous in that one can find it applied to suicide that is facilitated or mediated online [Wikipedia2011is] and getting oneself banned from a site [Shawnyshawn20071is]. However, cyber suicide is distinct and has a longer history of being used to describe online suicide [AlaoYollesArmenta1999cis,Analytics2005chi] — reflecting that “cyber” was a popular affix then, following e- but preceding i- and 2.0. Similarly distinct, infosuicide/infocide is consistently used for retraction [quadhome20111ii,Dowland2011ide], as is digital suicide [shitastic20101ds] and the more specific twittercide [rtil20092t].
Beyond neologisms, the phenomenon of online suicide garnered some popular attention with the enactment of suicide pacts in Japan in 2000 and 2003 [Ueno2000saj]. However, if Wikipedia can be thought of as a popular indicator of online phenomenon it’s surprising that the first version of its English article was created in 2005 [Wikipedia2005is]. In any case, a search of English-language journal articles reveals the issue became salient to mental health scholars in the late 90s: Suicide On The Internet: a Focus for Nursing Intervention? [BaumeRolfeClinton1998soi], Cybersuicide: the Internet and Suicide [AlaoYollesArmenta1999cis], Internet Sites May Encourage Suicide [Dobson1999ism], and The Internet and Its Potential Influence on Suicide [Thompson1999iip].
In this work I will be focusing exclusively upon what I will label as infocide: the purposeful retraction of one’s presence and contributions from the Internet.