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Rated: 13+ · Essay · Opinion · #2204781
Maybe we should remember social media reflects society.
Self-Harm, Suicide And Social Media

I rarely watch television, but this morning 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 simply is no more than that - talk. If you are in any way different from the accepted norm, you will find yourself being marginalized, criticized, 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.

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