Self Harm, Suicide And Social Media

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic

Social media platforms are merely a reflection of society. They have their bad points, but they have their good too. This piece is written from my own experience, and reflects my own opinions.

Self Harm, Suicide And Social Media

I happened to catch a UK program that was talking about suicide, self harm and the role that social media is playing in causing an increase in such things. Instagram was particularly singled out.

Now, I am no fan of social media. I don’t have a Facebook account, a Twitter account, or an Instagram one either. The roles that these can play in causing upset I’ve seen first hand, but they are only able to inflict this damage because of the way people choose to behave with them.

The fundamental problem is not with social media but with society itself.

The fact is that both suicide and self harm have been around for an awful lot longer than the internet, let alone these huge social media platforms. I’m not disputing that levels of both have risen, markedly so, but to some extent this is as a result of these actions bearing less stigma, at least on the surface. Suicides and incidents of self harm were covered up, lied about, kept hidden, whenever it was possible to do so. Even depression, up until recently, was thought of as something to be ashamed of. Acceptance is, of course, even now far from being universal, but that is how ‘society’ likes to make it appear.

There is all this talk of 'tolerance', of 'inclusion', but a lot of that is simply that - talk. If you are in any way different from the accepted norm, you will find yourself being marginalized, criticised, ostracized. Believe me, I know, for I have been a misfit all my life.

Social media can play a crucial role in saving lives too. Many, many people have found an ear to listen; someone that will at least allow them to vent, even if they cannot fully understand. That needs to be taken into account during the condemning of such sites. They really can be a life-line.

One thing that the program talked about was private self harm and suicide promoting groups, where people were more or less streaming their own deaths, comparing injuries, inciting each other to go further than perhaps they would have done otherwise. Of course, this has to be condemned, but at the same time kept in perspective, as there are also far more supportive sites out there for people to turn to.

Also, it is worth noting that this kind of behavior did also exist before the internet, where some mental health patients would engage in the same type of ‘egging on’, especially concerning eating disorders and other forms of self harm.

The fundamental problem is with society. It preaches an idealism that most people will never have a chance of meeting. Failure can be found on almost every level of society; be it housing, wealth, looks, health. An image is held out for us to aspire to, but it is a fake one. No one is going to achieve it because it simply does not exist.

What society needs to do is to accept differences, value them rather than condemn. The amount of intolerance in every-day life is simply staggering. Everywhere you look, from politics to religion, this is what is being promoted. Is it any surprise that so many people simply choose to opt out in the only way that is available to them?

Sure, social media companies must be prepared to look at how they are run, be proactive in removing content that is genuinely harmful; but so does every other part of daily life too.


Submitted: November 05, 2019

© Copyright 2021 hullabaloo22. All rights reserved.

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Comments

AdamCarlton

I saw that report (Norwegian). A tragedy for the family. Your remarks are well-balanced - unlike the media reports.

Tue, November 5th, 2019 3:14pm

Author
Reply

Thanks, Adam. I'm no great fan of social media, but it can't be blamed for all of societies failures, I think.

Tue, November 5th, 2019 7:42am

Christy Writes

I use Instagram regularly, and I think what made a big difference for me is unfollowing accounts that made me feel negative about myself. I ended up removing acquaintances from school and former classmates because I associate them with bad memories from that time. Influencers and pages that promised inspiration but delivered nothing followed suit. The thing is, I didn't know that was an option before. I thought it was rude to unfollow people I knew, and sometimes I didn't even realize that what I was seeing was harming me. I think we should teach kids and young teens on the internet how to recognize when something is lowering their self-esteem or is subtly making them unhappy. And we need to prioritize our well-being over anything else. There are lots of amazing places on Instagram and the internet in general, we just have to look for them instead of what's popular.
This is a great article, and I agree with you. The media isn't a one-dimensional entity that we can blame for our negative thoughts. It comes down to how we use it.

Tue, November 5th, 2019 3:22pm

Author
Reply

Thanks so much for that, Christy.

Tue, November 5th, 2019 7:44am

Mike S.

This is so right, and so excellent, Hull!

Tue, November 5th, 2019 6:21pm

Author
Reply

Thanks so very much for that, Mike. Truthfully, I was nervous about posting this.

Tue, November 5th, 2019 10:28am

Derina Peng

This is a very well said essay. I was happened to read a news from a mag, that a man was suing Apple for turning him a gay due to he down loaded an app that promoted that stuff. How ridiculous that is! Why blamed the media for what he agreed to recieve and try in the first place. I am sure he would not win the case. I agreed with your points.

Tue, November 5th, 2019 7:11pm

Author
Reply

Thanks for giving this a read, Derina. Like I said to Mike, I was a bit nervous of posting this at all.

Tue, November 5th, 2019 12:03pm

Obscure

Fantastic, well thought out article. I don't use any social media other than Whatsapp to communicate with friends, but I think one problem these apps like instagram and snapchat have is that they only show one part of people's lives: the perfect one, i.e. people only show the side of themselves they want people to see. This can make people feel inferior, as they are bombarded by this 'perfect side' of their friends and coworkers and schoolmates, a side they don't think they have, and they wrongly assume that these people do not have another side to their lives, the side they don't post online. This leads people to compare their 'imperfect' lives with the 'perfect' version of other people's lives. I'm curious if you've watched an episode of Black Mirror titled 'Nosedive'?

Tue, November 5th, 2019 7:57pm

Author
Reply

Nope! I rarely watch TV at all, to be honest. I had an infection in my central nervous system that badly effected my eyes - TV screens would pixalate at best. I don't have that problem now but it's a habit that has stuck. I do read a lot though.
To be honest, it just struck me that social media sites were continually being held to account when really all they are doing is reflecting society - after all, it is people who say all the stuff that's on them.
Thanks for reading this, Obscure.

Tue, November 5th, 2019 12:12pm

Obscure

To summarize, it's about this woman in a world where everyone has a 'rating' based on social media, high ratings mean better privileges, lower ratings mean isolation and poverty. As such, people are treated dependant on their ratings, and people are fake nice so that people don't rate them poorly.

I completely agree about it not being the social media's fault, though I wouldn't be too hard on society, it's more likely a select amount of individuals that seek to do harm, and these platforms give them a medium to do so. It's a shame that a bad minority often spoil it for the rest.

Tue, November 5th, 2019 8:37pm

Author
Reply

Yeah, a sad truth that can be applied to so many things.

Tue, November 5th, 2019 12:45pm

Sue Harris

I really think social media sites are hot beds of fake people, promoting fake personalities, which can be dangerous. But as you say, Hully, its about balance, and I know I wouldn't be without the internet, its a wonderful source of information at the touch of a key. I do think young, impressionable teenagers are vulnerable from those pretending to be their peers, but are actually perverts or adults trying to 'groom' them. I have a facebook account, but rarely use it these days. I know a lot of writers use it to publicise their books, and twitter too, but you have to be comfortable with relentless self promotion, which I am not. As you say, a lot of social media is about acceptance by conforming to the 'norm'. I salute you for expressing your opinion in balanced and well thought out manner.

Tue, November 5th, 2019 9:31pm

Author
Reply

Thank you so much for reading, Sue.

Tue, November 5th, 2019 2:06pm

Melancholic Wisdom

This is a really good essay, I'm glad you ended up writing about this. I use all forms of social media, and it's true that with all of the negativity being what gathers attention OR seeing everyone have fun when you're not can really mess with your mind. Some places even glorify suicide and self harm. Social media is the best example of the phrase "a double edged sword." Wonderful work, Hully, you put your thoughts out there so eloquently.

Fri, November 8th, 2019 6:43am

Author
Reply

Thanks so much for that, MW. I was so nervous about posting this piece at all.

Fri, November 8th, 2019 10:36am

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