Death, the internet, and privacy: Jacob D. Robida

The guy who went berserk in a Mass. nightclub died in a shootout with Arkansas police. His name was Jake. He was 18. He lived in New Bedford, Mass., and he listened to Insane Clown Posse. I know this because someone found his MySpace page. (I’m pretty sure this is his page — it would have to be a pretty complex hoax. I’ve saved off a copy of his page in case MySpace yanks the account.) We can see how he presented himself to the world, and the impact his actions had on his friends.

I would first like to note that all information I present here is publicly available on the internet.

User page

Self-presentation

The user page is standard red-on-black with lots of references to death etc. The media will no doubt interpret this as “evidence of a disturbed mind”, but it’s really not very different from the self-presentation of many well-behaved teenagers in the goth-punk-emo subcultures. So what if he likes death metal? I know lots of folks who do. Still, it is interesting to note that the page is not all flowers and sunshine — no one can say it was completely unpredictable.

The page is covered quiz memes. Here’s an interesting one:

You scored as Disappear. Your death will be by disappearing, probably a camping trip gone wrong or an evening hike you never returned from. Always remeber that one guy who was hiking alone and got in a rock slide. He could have died, but he cut his own hand off to save himself. Don’t end up like him (or worse, dead).

  • Disappear: 100%
  • Gunshot: 93%
  • Stabbed: 87%
  • Suicide: 67%
  • Eaten: 67%
  • Accident: 53%
  • Posion: 53%
  • Drowning: 33%
  • Cut Throat: 20%
  • Suffocated: 20%
  • Natural Causes: 13%
  • Disease: 0%
  • Bomb: 0%
How Will You Die??
created with QuizFarm.com

Notice that the quiz is wrong, but not by far. Gunshot was a close second on the list. Is this meaningful at all? Maybe not, but it is a bit eerie.

Comments

The comments section is amazing to read. This is the semi-personal communication from this Jake’s friends and acquaintances. Up through Feb 1, 2006 it is all fairly standard social networking site banter:

Feb 1, 2006 04:23 PM
I Hold An Image Of The Ashtray Girl…

hey do I know you?…I used to live in NB…can’t keep people straight no more…sorry…MMFCL…oh ya and I got my layout from Twiztid Injection Layouts…>MAE

That’s the last “pre-incident” comment. The next one is apparantly by two close friends of his:

Feb 2, 2006 01:31 PM
AngiE

jake this is angie and cj if you get this are you okay?!?!!? what the fuck is wrong with you?!?! im so fuckin sorry!! for everything!! please be okay! i love ya! be safe i told you to fuckin be safe!!!!!! why the fuck didn’t you listen to me!!! o man jake if you get this call one of us okay -angie

here’s cj…… Jake I fucking love you so much. Im talking to your mother. Why jake? I fucking care about you so much. I cant loose you. Im in love with you. Ive told you this so many times. And then I call your mom and she started telling me how much you like me. ANd now I dont even no were you are. Or if your okay. Im not trying tobe an asshole but you need to think about other ppl before you do stoopid shit. I FUCKING LOVE YOU. Your mom is fucking worried sick about you. No one knows were you are or if your even alive. Please Jake if you get this try and get in touch with me. I need to see you before its to late. I just wanna feel you incase its the last time I ever can. I cant stop crying im fucking worried sick about you. I need you in my life Jake. I love you. More than anything. Remember that. Dont do anything else cause when your done doing your time ill still be here for you. Ill be waiting for you. I promise. <3

This comment speaks to the heart of anyone who has ever worried about a loved one or close friend. Angie and CJ don’t know quite what’s going on, but they fear the worst. They’re pretty sure he’s gone and done something horrendous, they don’t know the details, they just want to see him at least one last time. They just want it all to go away. This is an outpouring of pure, raw emotion. All of the shields are down, the curtains are drawn back. This may be the first comment in the list written straight from the heart.

The comments following that are from friends who are shocked that Jake could have acted as he did. Many of us know someone like this, someone who we thought was basically good, but who one day snaps and does something terrible to themselves or to others. It’s a slap in the face. Could I have stopped this? Can good people do evil things? Was he a good person, or was I mistaken this whole time? Was it really his fault, or am I missing part of the story? It is a challange to one’s perception of reality, to one’s faith in one’s own beliefs. A life-altering experience for all.

Interspersed with those are several comments from outsiders who are disgusted with his actions. Jake’s friends defend him from criticism, but note that they are not defending his actions. They are as shocked as everyone else, or more so.

Impact

With the internet being the primary non-face-to-face communication method for an increasing portion of the population, personal communications are more likely to be made public. The intensely personal comments by close friends possibly represent their best attempt to communicate with him. I, a complete outsider, had the chance to “eavesdrop”, as it were, on this dialogue. In the process, my own perceptions were transformed. I set out to write this blog post as an analysis of Jacob D. Robida’s user page, but I found myself instead writing a piece on Jake’s death and its impact on others’ lives. I am only “distanced” in the beginning and ending of this post. It is a case of the observer being affected by the observation, and the observed potentially having no knowledge of the observers. What does this imply for social interaction on the web?


Responses: 2 so far Feed icon

  1. Uncle Dizzy says:

    I find it amazing how at this very second I'm listening to the Insane Clown Posse wearing the Jake Jeckel tee-shirt and in school where it is like 99% white yet I'm not what alot of t.v. and radio sations make my people the Juggalos out to be. It's also quite funny how they say we're raceist and prejudice and so on when we had Esham on Psychopathic Records a black man, Anybody Killa and American Indian man and have done work with Three 6 Mafia, Tech N9ne, Soon D12, and E40. 99% of these people are black. Insane Clown Posse has song after song promoting hate? Well that must be what "Chicken Huntin" then right? Wrong! That song is about biggots and racists getting what they deserve. I also don't believe that many schools don't allow "Juggalo Wear or Hatchet Gear" to be worn in school. Well maybe all you saying that my people are predjuce, are the real biggots. I've put my life on this subject. No Respect Records Uncle Dizzy out!

    [Edit by blog owner 2006-3-22 13:20: URI corrected from "http://nyspace.com/pjizzle" to "http://myspace.com/pjizzle"]

  2. Tim McCormack says:

    That's interesting, but I'm not sure how it is quite relevant to this blog post. I'm not passing any judgement on the type of music anyone listens to, and I'm not implying anything about what your choice of music says about you. In fact, what I am talking about is how the internet can turn a news story inside-out, placing the previously distanced readers right into the scene of the subject's life. I'm fascinated by the effect Robida's MySpace page had on my perception of him.

Commenting is not yet reimplemented after the Wordpress migration, sorry! For now, you can email me and I can manually add comments.