Ballard’s page eventually got hacked with a Flash redirect that reportedly led to a YTMND.com page making fun of him. MySpace cancelled that account, leaving his domain open to anyone who wanted to register it (www.myspace.com/jloveb). Since then, the customized “jloveb” domain bounced back and forth between Ballard scoffers and defenders, who didn’t know the troubled high schooler personally but feel compelled to weigh in on the debate from their digital pulpits.
For example, one anonymous YTMND.com supporter spotted Ballard’s former domain open in mid February and immediately staked his claim. “We at YTMND have no sympathy for some loser who gave up his life,” the administrator declared in the “about me” field. “I do not promote or oppose making fun of Josh. I am simply against any ‘Josh Tribute.’ ”
Comments were just as gleefully condemning. On February 17, “Giancarlo” posted, “Joshua Ballard: He puts the ‘Bullet’ back in ‘Bulletin Space.’ ” That same day, “Sloan” e–cracked up: “lol, you rock. this is so funny.”
“The profile’s original intent was only to entertain,” the anonymous administrator later types via MySpace. “I never planned on turning it into an anti–Josh Ballard or anti-emo site. It was the comments on it that got out of hand.” But, he adds, “No matter what the cause of death, I don’t like MySpace tribute pages. If I died, I would never want my friends leaving personal thoughts about me on a page for everyone to see. These kinds of things should not be available for the public.”
The www.myspace.com/jloveb url still receives regular traffic four months after Ballard’s suicide — more than 1300 views in Wroten’s first three days at the controls. Although she has tailored the page into a non-Ballard-specific get-help-if-you’re-considering-suicide plea featuring a rising sun and an inspirational Kierkegaard quote, she still gets hate mail. One England-based YTMND supporter sent a message to Wroten telling her to just give up. Why? “He belongs to the internet now.”
Ariel Alyssum Lannen refused to be constrained, even by her own name: she preferred it spelled äRRiel. On MySpace, where most users shoehorn their personalities into standardized templates, äRRiel refused the boxes. Having taught herself HTML and CSS programming, she had reconstructed her profile into a layout that barely resembled a MySpace page. When the cursor rolled over her links, it flipped off visitors. A homemade button on her page teased voyeurs to “See my naked pics” — a ruse that sent users back to their own pages.