#social media #self-harm

– Roshan Puthuran David

“I like wearing long sleeves”, Lizzie (name changed) smiled. “It helps me cover my drawings”. I did not quite understand what she meant. Until I rolled her sleeves up: parallel red lines contrasted on her pale skin.  I knew her for a year and a half now, and I knew she came from a dysfunctional family, she needed help sometimes, but she got along just fine with the rest of us. Lately she’s been keeping to herself, reserved and very remorse.  Her depressing statuses and pictures with mostly shades of black in them with smudged eyes gave us the cue to have “the talk” with her. We worked out a schedule for her, where she would spend more time socialising and attending painting workshops just to keep her occupied and rarely connected to the internet.

I was curious at first, as good friends it was our responsibility to get her out of her melancholy, I looked it up online, typical as I am, and found Google suggesting me with a lot of websites that gave detailed descriptions of what self-harm was and why people resorted to it. I found that my friend wasn’t the only victim but a lot of other teenagers resort to such disturbing practices to relieve themselves of emotional pain by inflicting physical injury. And some of them are only 13-17 years of age, much younger than Lizzie. I read in one of the articles that enumerated the causes of self-harm that online activity can speed up this process and turn them suicidal. Social media has been playing a brilliant job by trying to curb such practices by providing online forums, help groups etc., but other main stream websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr are radically speeding up the process.

#self-harm, I searched Twitter. A retweet from a young girl; ‘If I ever ran away from home, I’m sure my family wouldn’t even notice.’ I thought. ‘Who could be posting this kind of thing?’ And that is how the can of worms came to open. I found that 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. All this 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 songs 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 help lines and such, sites like Twitter and Tumblr have some catching up to do. Though these posts are taken down only when they are reported or flagged, it’s out there in the open, like a Dementor sucking up the happiness of anyone who comes its way.

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, and 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, it  might  just be too late.

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