Victim of Choice

By Jade Walker


"I believe my son was a victim of the dot-com boom," David Bunnell recently told the Los Angeles Times.

A victim? Hardly.

No one put a gun to 26-year-old Aaron Bunnell's head and told him to work 100-hour weeks. Like me, he chose to do so. He sincerely loved his work, and felt the Internet was going to lead him to fame and riches.

No one threatened Bunnell with bodily harm to make him pull so many all-nighters that his body grew completely exhausted. Like me, he chose to do them. Deadlines loomed and the work had to get done. If no one else does it, then it's up to you.

No one made Bunnell spend the rest of his time partying with the dot-com elite, networking and having fun at a continuous stream of nightly events. Sure these jaunts were great for promoting his Web site, and probably offered plenty of networking opportunities. Like me, he chose to attend them. How else will you develop a reputation in the online world?

No one compelled Bunnell to drown his anxieties in an entire bottle of champagne. Nor did they coerce him into taking Valium and heroin to crash.

Unlike me, he chose to harm his body in this way. And that decision eventually cost him his life.

On July 16, Bunnell flew from San Francisco to New York City, and continued this lethal mixture of work and play. The next morning, a waiter found him at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, dead of "acute intoxication."

This wasn't the first time Bunnell had poisoned his body either. According to the New York City Medical Examiner's Office, the amount of drugs in his system suggested he had abused stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine for a long time.

So much potential. So much wasted.

And now his father calls him a victim? Hardly. I'm sorry for his family's loss, but the only thing Bunnell was a victim of was bad choices.

I do not contest the fact that working in a dot-com environment can result in a generation of overachievers and ambitious computer geeks who seek to use their mouse and modem to make millions.

But this combination of long hours with the possibility of riches certainly does not "breed" idiots eager to waste their lives on drugs and alcohol. People make their own choices in life, and I think it's about time they take responsibility for those decisions.

Although there are no concrete statistics concerning people working in the technology sector, doctors say that many people are using downers like alcohol, Valium or heroin, to cure insomnia.

I'm a total insomniac. As I've said before, sometimes my brain just doesn't want to shut down. I know that sleep is important, even though I rarely get more than five or six hours a night. But I'm not about to start popping pills or shooting up to cure this minor inconvenience.

Want to get to some sleep? Relax more. Take yoga. Sit in a bath or jacuzzi. Do breathing exercises. Play sports. Go for a drive or for a walk. Read. Watch a movie. Inhale some aromatherapy.

Interested in socializing? Network with your colleagues at a local coffeehouse over chai tea, or have a beer at a nearby pub. A beer. Something that'll just take the edge off. How difficult is moderation?

The technology field doesn't spontaneously create drug addicts. Why, even Bunnell was known to experiment with drugs in college. And he worked just as hard in film school as he did on his Web site.

Don't get me wrong. I have been known to work myself into exhaustion to make a deadline or to finish a story. Hell, I'm writing this column after sleeping for only two hours. But does that make me a victim?

Absolutely not.