This week is National Suicide Prevention Week; an event you might assume has nothing to do with social media.
But sadly, that assumption is wrong.
Suicide and social media go hand-in-hand in many ways…
- On the positive side, social media can be a helpful tool to identify, monitor and reach out to those who are suicidal. (something we have talked about before on this blog.)
- On the negative side, social media can play a role in exacerbating the depression which can lead to suicide.
But I want to talk about a different intersection between suicide and social, one which rarely gets written about in business blogs and is even more pervasive and problematic…
You see, sometimes social media encourages people to commit suicide. And it happens every day.
“Go kill yourself” is the new “screw you.”
These days people of all walks of life and ages (on all types of social networks, discussion forums, blog comments, etc.) reply to things they dislike by simply saying, “Go kill yourself,” or “Just die already.”
Both of these phrases are dropped as casually as saying, “Shut up,” or “I hate you,” or “I think you’re an idiot;” as if someone’s words and thoughts are so meaningless and trivial that their lives are meaningless and trivial, too.
As someone who spends a lot of time managing a chronic pain resource forum that attracts a lot of very depressed folks, who has known many people who have attempted (and succeeded) at suicide, and who has been suicidal before, I find this trend both extremely offensive and painful.
Words have power.
And you’re right. Most people understand that it’s just a (very crude) form of expression.
But depressed people aren’t “most people.”
A horribly depressed person is looking for a reason why they shouldn’t kill themselves (at the same time they are drowning in a sea of reasons why they should.)
Imagine what it is like for those people to look all day at a feed full of images like the ones I’ve included in this post.
Words have power.
And a phrase like, “Go kill yourself” — uttered to a person who is trying desperately to keep themselves from doing that very thing — are perhaps the most powerful words of all.
This crap has got to stop.
But I thought this week I should at least bring the problem to the attention of people who may not even be aware that it is happening, like…
- The professionals who spend their days in the walled gardens of corporate America.
- The readers who mainly peruse well-moderated blogs and forums.
- The people who do not have exposure to Internet-savvy teens.
And I will continue to do this when I see people say things like “go kill yourself” online, whether it’s suicide prevention week or not.
But I know that my voice is small. It will need to have many others added to it to ever have a chance of being heard.
Words have power, my friends. I hope you will lend some of yours to the struggling souls who need it most and join me in improving the respect we show others in our digital discourse.