Most Americans check their social media first thing in the morning. There are new Likes, views, followers, friend requests and mentions. Enough activity to make a person feel important and well, liked.
Social networks have also been linked to causing trouble in relationships, not just the romantic kind. The lack of face-to-face interaction has changed the way people communicate with each other. Distraction, isolation, illusion and a negative outlook on one’s self-image are all the result of the social media boom.
Are the above factors enough to contribute to rising suicide rates in the U.S.?
The big social media spike really took off in 2007 and the suicide rate went from 29,000 per year to about 37,000 by the year 2008.
This jump alone is a cause for concern.
This bumped suicide up to the list of top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S., knocking out Septicemia.
Suicide rates have grown by about 625 each year since then.
What changed exactly?
According to Diane Cvetic, Behavioral Science Professor, “one other significant event in 2007-2008 was the housing market collapse, which would be very likely to contribute to increased suicide rates. The biggest spike in suicide rates in the last century was back in the early 1930s during the Great Depression, so economic downturns are a well-known contributing factor.
Social media is linked to increased levels of social isolation, which increases the likelihood of suicide. Also, the recent live-streaming suicides on Facebook may glamorize suicide for those at risk and put them at higher risk. Demographics is key here. For example, suicide rates have jumped much higher for middle aged women than all other age/gender groups. Do middle aged woman have a higher rate of social media use?”
Well, let’s see…
While the recession ended in June of 2009, suicides rates continue to grow for middle aged women. Men between the ages of 25-34 dominate in suicide throughout the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Men are four times more likely to commit suicide, whereas women attempt suicide three times more than men.
The use of social media has opened up the door for discussions on how to kill yourself. People are live streaming self-harm videos, which make up for 58 percent of YouTube’s most-watched videos. Suicide pacts among the youth grow on a daily basis. The addition of cyber bullying is the final touch, to a recipe for disaster.
With these tools, suicide is becoming normalized.
In an effort to deter suicide, Google displays the National Suicide Prevention Hotline when searches such as how to kill yourself are keyed in.
Facebook has also teamed-up with a non-profit group in both the UK and Ireland, which provides notifications to the group when suicide-related terms are searched on the Internet.
There is no doubt that social media is an effective tool for information and communication, but there is no restriction on the types of messages conveyed and accessed.
The social networking tools which were created to bring us closer, appear to be doing the opposite and the vulnerable are the true victims.