Self-harm, suicide and social media

Many young people feel under pressure to live up to false ideals.
Many young people feel under pressure to live up to false ideals.

Time for the big players to take some responsibility, says Verbal Arts Centre Student Journalist Tiarnan McCartney

Let me paint a picture in your head. It’s Saturday night and I’m watching 8 out of 10 Cats does Countdown on 4Seven, while scrolling through Twitter.

Suddenly something catches my eye. A retweet from a young girl; ‘if I ever ran away from home, I’m sure my family wouldn’t even notice.’ ‘Christ.’ I thought. ‘Who could be posting this kind of thing?’ And that is how the can of worms came to open.

I found the tweet came from an account prefixed ‘Worthless’ and from opening that account I found Twitter kindly offering me a plethora of related accounts that I ‘may like,’ and believe me when I say they are not in short supply.

After around ten minutes or so of Twitter surfing I came across another account from a girl, who was ‘so tempted to cut, but it’d be over the cuts from yesterday.’ So she decided to ‘just live with the pain.’

Another account, disturbingly contained the line, ‘loves seeing blood drip down her legs.’ And what shocked me even more were the accompanying images. Bleeding and scarred arms, collections of razors and even instructions on self harm. This all came as a complete surprise to me and I was left shaken, but it didn’t take long for me to find out that this kind of thing is not uncommon at all.

Self-harm and depression has almost come to the stage that it is now glamorised via social media. It has become 21st century poetry for the smart phone generation.

Pictures of young girls and their torn arms with a lyric from their favourite melancholic scrawled across in italics are a norm on sites such as Tumblr.

Unlike Facebook, which has a policy of removing self-harm related content and other triggers and providing the poster with helplines and such, sites like Twitter and Tumblr have some catching up to do.

Taking a quick look at Twitter’s rules I can quickly see that unlawful use of copyright or trademark is, of course, completely out of bounds whilst pictures of your bleeding arms are, apparently, perfectly acceptable.

Something is severely wrong here and these sites need to take action now.

These accounts should be removed, offered help and replaced with accounts providing advice, support and further ways and means of receiving this help. But sure that’s just me.

When these accounts are gaining hundreds, if not thousands of followers and reposts not only is that encouraging the poster to post again but this infectious behaviour is reaching a massive audience. It’s really quite frightening; most of these young girls are 14, 15 years-old.

At this stage I cannot bring myself to look any further. Even looking at these posts from a journalistic perspective is making me quite depressed so to the mind of a young teenage girl, uncomfortable with the way she looks or dealing with family grievances or whatever it may be, I can only imagine the kind of effect it could have.

This is a serious problem. To Twitter, Tumblr and the likes, I send this message. Take some responsibility for the actions and behaviours your sites are promoting. Do something about it now.

This is young people’s mental and physical health we are talking about here. To you, the reader, if you see the likes of these posts, do something about it. Report it, if you know the person, talk to them, send them in the right direction.

There is plenty of help out there. And to the broken society who has created this need for perfection, who has invented and promoted the ideals that young people live by today and who has continued to ignore the pleas for help from young people all over the world.

Well. I fear it may just be too late for you.