St. Petersburg Times
Before signing off his Web page on MySpace.com Monday, Army Pvt. Dylan Meyer typed a farewell note to the world.
"Jesus, I don't know if any of you have heard what has happened to me yet, but I just want to remind you not to be sad. Laugh, that's what lifes about," Meyer wrote. "When it is all said and done ... it is the ones you love who you will remember."
The next morning, Meyer was found dead in the Army barracks at Fort Gordon in Georgia. He was 20.
Because the Army is still investigating, officials would not release the cause of Meyer's death or say if he committed suicide. But the note on Meyer's MySpace page seemed to indicate that he had taken his own life.
A place to shareIn the three years since it was launched, MySpace.com has gained more than 70 million members. The site's size, as well as the intensely personal nature of the pages that many members maintain, has embroiled the Web site in controversy. There have been scattered accounts of sexual predators targeting minors they met through the site, and some critics say MySpace.com doesn't have enough safeguards against criminals looking to prey on underage children.
Even people with little computer experience can easily upload photos and videos, keep online diaries, and chat with other users.
Millions of teenagers create personal Web pages that reveal intimate details of their lives to anyone who happens across their sites.
They talk about love, sex and politics. They list their favorite books and movies.
In Meyer's case, he may have posted his suicide note.
MySpace.com said in a statement Thursday that a third of its staff is devoted to monitoring content, mostly for violations of its terms-of-use agreement, including posting of inappropriate photos and hate speech.
The company added that it could not comment on specific cases or ongoing investigations. But when situations arise "that put the safety and security of our more than 74 million members at risk, we work with the appropriate authorities" to quickly resolve them, the company said.
Searching for directionUntil this week, little on Meyer's MySpace site suggested he was considering suicide.
He was a filmmaking fanatic who admired director Quentin Tarantino and won a spot in the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High in St. Petersburg, Fla. His MySpace page paid homage to his favorite movies.
Keven Renken, the head of the Gibbs theater department, remembers Meyer as a student with a "very natural acting style" who "really loved film." Meyer had roles in school productions of The Shadow Box, The Laramie Project and 12 Angry Men, Renken said.
But he felt lost after he finished high school in 2004, those who knew him said. Dustin Triplett, 20, a friend of Meyer's since their freshman year at Gibbs, said Meyer joined the Army early last year to get some direction. The decision surprised friends who knew Meyer disliked President Bush and opposed the war in Iraq.
Meyer soon became miserable in the Army, where he worked in a military intelligence unit.
Triplett said Meyer would sometimes talk about how the Army gave him a decent salary. But he also described how he felt around people he believed could not relate to his interest in the arts.
"He would tell me how much he hated it," Triplett said. "He wasn't ever comfortable."
Meyer didn't show up for his physical training formations at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday. Military personnel who opened the door to his room soon after found him unconscious, and he was pronounced dead.
Meyer logged onto MySpace for the last time Monday. He told friends to "dry your eyes" and listed a phone number for his father.
A woman who answered the phone listed for Meyer's father said the family would not comment.
By 7:26 a.m. Tuesday, within hours of Meyer being pronounced dead, friends were already writing testimonials on his MySpace page. Within a day, the site became a place of public mourning.
Just days before, his friends were writing to Meyer about movies, Army food, a Bob Dylan concert.
On April 21, Meyer made one last movie that he added to his MySpace site, a short film about Army life he called Bored As Hell: A Weekend at Ft. Gordon.
The movie shows soldiers listening to music, drinking Jack Daniels out of the bottle and playing hacky-sack. It ends with two messages of white script on a black screen.
The first reads: "Dedicated to America's Youth. Go to college and lead a normal life. Don't make the same mistake I did."
The second ends with an exhortation to vote, adding: "Don't let old people run your lives, you have a choice."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.