I first wish to start this post with a disclaimer:
The words and opinions utilized within this posting are of my own mind. In NO WAY do they represent the thoughts of my employer or family. If they do manage to match the ideas the reader has then it is purely coincidental.
Suicide rates are pulled from The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
I’m going to start by pointing out that the internet and its original ideals of allowing for the easy sharing of ideas across the world. I think those who created the internet could not fathom all that could potentially transpire from the invention, be it good or be it bad. This all came about over decades and became commercial in the mid-1990s.
One has to only look at how quickly technology grew after this period and one of the biggest growths seen was that of social media. A platform that saw Myspace become the real big first platform in 2003. At the same time, a disturbing trend was seen elsewhere starting to click upwards. This trend is a slight increase in suicides.
As we step forward to just 3 years, it’s now 2006 and Facebook and Twitter have now gone public as well. Some could say that this was a game-changer when it came to social media as there were multiple platforms that people could utilize to stay in touch with friends and family. The drawback is at the same time people learned fake profiles, anonymous usernames could be created and utilized for hate, cyberbullying, and other hateful acts.
Now, it wasn’t till about a year after that Twitter and Facebook began to take off. As each grew, so did their membership to the point Myspace began to decline, and until new platforms became available many people rushed to the big companies when it came to social media. Again, as we look at the graphic suicide rates began to inch upwards, each year after 2006.
Now, from here on down I’m stepping into the realm of speculation. I am sure I could do some additional research to find a multitude of papers on the dangers of social media and what it does to society. However, I’m going from my own experiences as someone who grew up with the precursor of social media and back previous to the world wide web growth.
I’ve seen how over the growth of the internet people really do not communicate. You are going, wait how can you say that, I text, I use messenger, I use Twitter, I use FaceTime, and so much more. The fact is, its not true communication in the sense we do not really talk to each other. We use a device to type words to each other. The emotions in those words can be lost no matter how many emoji’s, smiley faces, or memes that can be used. There is nothing like seeing the emotions those real words have on someone’s face. Do your words bring joy, laughter, smirks, tears, hate, or a multitude of other emotions.
I theorize that as we grow more and more inclined on using technology as our main form of communication we will get desensitized to real emotions. We could find ourselves laughing at someone we bring to tears. We may even make fun of the person for reasons we do not understand just as we forget to act, talk, deal with REAL emotions.
It is here that I firmly believe lies partially the primary reason for the suicide rate. In truth, I somewhat wonder if due to this if it doesn’t lead to other social ills such as the shootings that have been plaguing the country.
Now, wait how can I make such a conclusion? In my mind, it is rather simple. The more we escape our real world, our real problems, or real emotions to one that is found thru the acceptance of an online world the more people suffer. Humans want acceptance, we want friends, no matter how much of a loner we are, we still want some form of recognition. It’s when those dreams are busted when hate and ridicule become our world that it brings out the negative in us.
A great example is looking at social media platforms that low anonymous user names. You can look and see people ridiculing others, using names and terms that they’d never (well hope they wouldn’t) use when talking to a person one on one. It’s even worse when people do it using their real name when using a platform like Facebook.
The thing that really bothers me about this all is so many adults, be it a parent to a celebrity we call for civility. We want all the bullying to stop but look at the example that the “adults” set for the younger generations. If your political ideology differs you call others names, break off friendships, call for boycotts, and other things. As adults, we throw mixed messages at the young generations. It’s a case of doing as I say, not as I do.
Hey, wait are you not off track? How does this lead to suicide and other behaviors that are so anti-social?
Again, to me, the answer is obvious. This all plays out so much on social media. The platforms were originally created to share with friends and family. Instead, they are deemed to be used more to spread hate, ridicule, judgment and other forms of hate. Things that people pick up on and can lead to depression. If you see the world around you as a lonely world, a hate-filled world, a world of judgment how can one stay sane? It’s not like we can openly share our emotions as we will be seen as weak, a loser, a crybaby and all those negative connotations that come with it.
This thus leads to other antisocial behavior, a lashing out, and finding a TOOL to make others pay for the feelings and emotions that have bottled up for so long. It doesn’t help that the media puts these events all over the news. So, those clambering for the attention we cannot find online, get the attention we may want in another form thru murder, suicide, and other crimes as the news will share it with everyone. If the news doesn’t do it, well you can count on a story getting thrown around on social media.
The long conclusion here is that although there are many great assets to social media, is that we have forgotten how to be really social. We really need to put down the phones, the tablets, step out from behind the computer and just talk. Find reasons to remember what REAL EMOTIONS are and not emojis, smileys, and memes. Instead make it a real smile, a laugh, even a good cry and really understand where a person is coming from. If we can find a way to change one person, it can spread and maybe just maybe those suicide numbers will drop.
Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and other mentioned companies are not owned by me and are owned by their own companies. I have no ownership within either. They are only referenced as examples of social media and no blame should be placed upon them for comments made upon their platforms by their users.
The emotions graphic is from the public domain from Pixabay.com