Teen suicide: The double-edged sword of social media
Teens and parents struggle in separate yet equal ways; the former must learn to grow and adjust to new life experiences, while the latter must keep those experiences in check. Finding a balance between these can prove difficult and sometimes tragic.
Motivated by the shame of a video taken by her father, 13-year-old Izabel Laxamana jumped off of an overpass in Washington state, dying after landing on top of a passing car. The video in question showed her father cutting off her hair as a form of punishment.
While some on social media have blamed the father for her death, just as many others have come to his defense, with no criminal charges likely to be filed against him. Reports indicate that a third-party posted the picture, not Izabel or her father. He intended for her to keep the video privately as a deterrent for future misdeeds.
The incident has sparked a heated debate over the viability of embarrassment and shaming as a parenting method. While some see it as a form of abuse, others see it as a potential deterrent for bad behavior, especially with the ubiquity of social media and its importance to teens.
This issue has arguably never experienced more prevalence. Even in pop culture, the recent horror film, “Unfriended,” addressed issues of public shaming, teens, and how those teens conduct themselves online. Much like this recent incident, the film explored the repercussions of teen suicide resulting from a viral video, albeit in a more stylized, dramatic fashion.
While social platforms have led to tragic incidents such as this, however, they have also done plenty of good. Facebook alone has cooperated with several mental health organizations and installed a “self-harm risk reporting” tool to its myriad features. The social media tool is opening up new methods of intervention by helping people report context clues of potential suicide risks.
Discerning where to place blame in situations like this comes as no easy task for anyone. Social media is a complex, labyrinthine world with many drawbacks, but also just as many advantages. Despite Laxama’s tragic end, there is hope that these events still spur further dialogue about the nature of public shaming and how to handle it.
How do you feel about social media’s involvement in the intervention of such issues? Let’s have a conversation through comments below or on Twitter @connerws.