January 7, 2021

The Disturbing Truth about Social Media & Suicide.

If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.

At one point or another, I think we all have been verbally assaulted by the written word on Facebook. 

Personally, when it has happened, I take a stand and then let it go. The interactions served to remind me that no matter how fair or unbiased we are aiming to be, there will always be someone who disagrees and perceives a message differently. And that being said, haters gonna hate.

Today, I witnessed a fellow blogger and fine human experience the same. But for him, it was publicly documented on his post. Whether intentional or unintentional, the comment remained.

Followers rallied around him as well as posted comments individually supporting him, his personal experiences and messages he shares around the globe, and the inspirational impact it has on, well, most of us. (Not the haters.)

I perceive that as brave because I typically hide or delete nasty comments, not wanting to infect my readers with others’ poisonous perspectives. But more importantly, because I do not think they deserve the attention they seek

My page. My rules. And if you didn’t read the disclaimer, not my problem.

Social media is an opportunity to scroll through the best and worst of humanity. There are cyber-bullies of all ages and those who derive pleasure from bashing others. Obviously, that’s the case because if it weren’t, they’d simply scroll on by or unfollow a page.

When I first started writing again, I decided upon a pen name for the anonymity it afforded me. 

My pen name remains; however, the author is always my true identity.

As most will realize, writing is a wonderful yet frightening endeavor because you never know how your thoughts will be interpreted or perceived. But that is also where the beauty of it begins—in allowing us to partake in a respectful exchange of diverse opinions while having the maturity to still like each other at the end of the debate.

It’s taken me 51 years to grow comfortable with not being liked or being judged. Why did I waste so many years caring about what others (those who didn’t even know me) thought? Why would it ruin my day or send me into hiding until I recovered, hesitant to put myself out there again?

This got me thinking. 

If it took me 51 years, how about these kids who are growing up with social media? If the haters can unnerve a grown adult with life experience and self-knowledge, how about the children, teens, and young adults? When I reflect upon the suicide rate of kids due to social media, there are no words.

An assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Jamie Zelazny, PhD, RN, noted that suicide is the second-leading cause of death among individuals aged 10-24 years old. Furthermore, rates have tripled among youth aged 10 to 14 years. This includes girls but shows that the African American children under the age of 13 have significantly higher rates. 

What is even more disturbing? The rising rates in these demographic groups have coincided with the rising rates of social media use. We can only imagine how this year of homeschooling and almost everything being done virtually might impact these numbers. It’s staggering.

If adults cannot manage their online emotions and social bashing, what kind of example are we setting for our children? It’s something to think about as we close out one year and begin another. 

And if you find yourself among the haters, I pose just one question to you: if you can’t say anything good, why say anything at all?  

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