Is social networking a suicide risk?

social networkingBullied to death on Bebo. 15 year old Megan Gillans committed suicide following taunts on the Internet about her clothing and appearance. Yesterday the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Vincent Nichols  criticised such sites for playing a key role in young people committing suicide.  Are we too addicted to realise the danger of online social networking?

Cyber bullying follows a child home. If harassment can now leave the confines of the school playground, where can a child feel safe? And if you can’t beat them, should you just join them? This suggestion from  Simon Jenkins at the Chrisitian Magazine
“if young people are using the Internet, Bebo and texting more often, that is something we should work with, not criticise. Warning them off just makes it more exciting and could even undo the good work that is being done by churches to reach out to this community.”

If as the Archbishop says what we are dealing with is a serious “all or nothing syndrome” should we be resorting to stricter measures to combat addiction to such  sites?  Here are seven reasons by social networking is unhealthy.

 Are you a young person who socialises on the Internet? Do you feel social networking is a form of social suicide? Or are comments like those from the Archbishop based on a collection of vague assertions?

26 Responses to “Is social networking a suicide risk?”

  1. 1 Helen
    August 3, 2009 at 10:58

    I think many people with online social-lives are already an at-risk group.Speaking for myself I have all the insecurities I had as a teenager and the same fears and anxieties.I always have been introverted and quiet unless I’m in a familiar social setting with people I know. Very briefly I thought I could meet more people or be more social online.But I knew it didn’t make me any more comfortable and any more trusting of people.In short,even though people use soc.net. as a substitute for a social life,it isn’t.It fills time and might give you a little more practice at social interaction but it does not fulfill the real need for positive human contact.The sad part is that much face to face contact also doesn’t fill that need.A pet is often better company than a person;and anything is better than a destructive relationship.I’d take a cat or a dog over that any day..

  2. 2 Ramesh, India
    August 3, 2009 at 10:59

    A few months ago, a teenager in Mumbai was killed apparently by the friends he made on Orkut. Read the story here: http://ibnlive.in.com/news/mumbai-teenager-abducted-killed-by-classmates/85555-3.html
    Another story from the same city that happened in 2007: http://ibnlive.in.com/news/16yearold-killed-by-friends-for-money/47156-3.html

    Social networking is surely a risk to kids, teenagers and more so, if they are female.

  3. 3 citysocialising
    August 3, 2009 at 11:25

    We at CitySocialising.com wholeheartedly agree with this along with the Archbishop’s comments yesterday in The Sunday Telegraph that Facebook and MySpace are leading young people to seek “transient” friendships, with quantity becoming more important than quality.

    CitySocialising is refreshingly all about “real friends in the real world” and was created to enable people out from behind their computer screens and into the face to face social fire. We know that real world friendships are far more valuable than online friendships and that interacting face-to-face with others is essential for a person’s emotional wellbeing.

    Whilst the internet is a great tool to find like minded others and initiate new friend connections, it’s the offline meeting and socialising with these people and a shared history of experiences through which genuine friendships are forged. http://www.citysocialising.com

  4. 4 Deryck/Trinidad
    August 3, 2009 at 12:05


    Seems your doing some free advertising.

    I agree that social networking sites can be dangerous especially when kids become addicted to them and decrease real life interactions.

    A major factor is poor self image and ego which are psychological in nature and mostly unseen.

    The culture of interaction for teenagers that is being taught in the media is pernicious in nature. Many shows geared to teenagers depict them picking on each other where the teenager who is not regarded as cool, good looking or popular become the butt of the others jokes. These attitudes pervade the schools and become the culture and modus operandi of many teens. This is the same culture seen in celebrity life.

    For there to be a change there must be a paradigm shift away from deleterious behaviours that manifestly affects the lives of teenagers into adulthood by blemishing their self image and ego.

    • 5 Helen
      August 3, 2009 at 20:09

      It may be that seeing the awful behavior will make the teenagers more aware of it and not do it themselves and shun or try to correct others who do. Kids can be cruel and they were never really depicted as vicious and cruel when I was growing up in the sixties and seventies. But in real life they were vicious,cruel and horrible.

  5. 6 Rob (UK)
    August 3, 2009 at 13:09

    The bishop has no special expertise in mental health or new media technology, so I don’t know why we should pay him any heed.

  6. August 3, 2009 at 13:45

    It’s not social networking, it’s the social networker.

    There are deeper psychological issues at play when determining if someone is suicidal. The desire to be loved, to be accepted, or to just be desired on some level can lead to intense emotional attachements (ie FB, other people) which can lead to obsessions which can cause suicidal tendencies.

    In my own battle with depression I only turned around my life when I learned that I was fully responsible for my thoughts and feelings. I didn’t necessarily want these thoughts and feelings but there was some deep mental blueprint that I had designed which caused them. This was a painful process but it meant liberation for me. When I stopped blaming the outside for what happened on the inside I began to look at life in a different light.

  7. 9 Tom K in Mpls
    August 3, 2009 at 14:48

    Every social interaction carries an enormous range of potential results. Why should this be any different?

  8. 10 Jennifer
    August 3, 2009 at 15:19

    Yes; I think it is for some people. I heard about a young girl who met a young boy on myspace. Unfortunately, the boy way made up by a girl that the young girl did not like her. The girl ended up hanging herself. The internet, especially on social networking sites, can be used in a degrading, harassing, hateful way. It is shameful.

    Take it seriously now WHYS?

    Good thing some people have a thick skin!

  9. 11 patti in cape coral
    August 3, 2009 at 15:20

    Social networking can be good, can be bad. It goes without saying that parents need to be vigilant. I have noticed that people don’t feel the same pressure to conform to social norms of politeness and respect online as they do in real life, and children are particularly vulnerable to that.

    • 12 Helen
      August 3, 2009 at 20:03

      You got it right Patti in Cape Coaral. But you have the wrong impression. Lucky you if your life experience describes politeness and respect as social norms. I was brought up that way,but in schools and in the WWF of social interaction with people,there are no rules. People being mean and awful online with cyber bullying just gave the bullies a new place to bully from. Someone in the WHY’S blog mentioned teenagers being depicted as mean spirited and bullies and wrote something like”seeing this makes them become”;keyword ‘become'(?)I have news. They already ARE and have been for years. All bullies need a target. Any old target will do,it seems. And they don’t about the effects. I think sadism must be a common trait in”human”nature.

  10. 13 Anthony
    August 3, 2009 at 15:40

    Not to sound mean, but if they can’t handle the internet world, how would they have been able to live in the real world? Social Darwinism.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  11. 14 patti in cape coral
    August 3, 2009 at 15:45

    Good thing that after those sniveling weaklings off themselves, the only ones left will be the heroes and giants of mental fortitude. Not to sound mean, though.

  12. 15 gary
    August 3, 2009 at 15:50

    I disagree that social networking sites pose a unique threat to their respondents. Participation in society is risky business no matter how it is accomplished.

  13. 16 Jennifer
    August 3, 2009 at 16:16


    I suspect if you were a “target” you’d feel differently!

  14. 18 Tara Ballance, Montreal
    August 3, 2009 at 17:06

    When I started social networking back in the day, we had to walk barefoot in the snow, uphill in both directions, to get into our discussion groups.

    In 1995 I stumbled into alt.support.depression, a forum which is exactly what its name implies, a discussion group on the alt hierarchy of Usenet, which provides peer support to people living with depression. I’ve hung out there ever since.

    From a bunch of folks posting about our lives and experiences with clinical depression, we have created an online community. We have saved lives. We have failed to save lives. We have loved one another and we have mourned one another. We phone one another, write to one another, and when we can, we get together in real life.

    There are a lot of good things to be had through online social networking, but in my experience you have to work for them. You must protect yourself, first and foremost. Then, and only then, you can reach out to other people online. And if you can’t shrug off the nasty stuff that goes on even in the most supportive online forums, then turn off the computer and walk away.

  15. 19 Anthony
    August 3, 2009 at 18:03

    @ Jennifer

    Are you kidding me? I was bullied in school all the time (since I was a “raver”), I didn’t let it get to me, and that was real life, not over the internet. Like I said, Social Darwinism. It’s not something people like to think about Social Darwinism, but it is real and it does work.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  16. 20 tipsylife
    August 3, 2009 at 19:30

    May be the problem is not internet but parenting. I am against this idea of totall liberalizing every aspect of lives as advocated by so many do gooder organizations which are not fully vetted. Freedom for kids, freedom for men and women to do and behave which ever way they think; in a word totalitarianism or nihilism labeled ‘vogue’. It comes with a hidden cost. The first casualty when every one become whatever they want has been the family. It is on the decline and children who are not knowledgeable enough find themselves in trouble.
    Everyone needs to worry because of not only internet suicides but,
    too much sexism and saddism in the entertainment media sometimes deamining the humanity in us.
    too much independence producing careless loners and so on.

    • 21 Helen
      August 3, 2009 at 23:45

      When naming or assigning where the problem is something we never seem to say is that people are the problem. Maybe it’s so obvious I shouldn’t expect that to be pointed out. But what the problem is so often is lack of responsibility and lack of accountability. And many,many problems in our lives and in society as a whole have these two areas that say how irresponsible we can be to be acknowledged as the root of the problem;it is possible we are so irresponsible that we will never admit lack of responsibility and lack of accountability as one of our main problem areas. A catch 44 is a catch 22 doubled is what it is.

  17. 22 himanshuchanda
    August 3, 2009 at 20:01

    Hi Krupa,

    I would say it was a nice post. I particularly liked the way you tried to back the core message with so many examples and linking which will help a reader to know more about it, if he wishes so. And Thnks for linking back too

    Chanda Himanshu

  18. 23 Billy
    August 3, 2009 at 22:10

    I don’t know about social networking being a suicide risk, but I would have thought that rampant child abuse in many catholic run institutions WOULD constitute a major suicide risk. I just thought that archbishop Vincent Nichols might think of that before criticising methods of communication more advanced than stone carvings.

  19. 24 Jennifer
    August 3, 2009 at 22:33


    We are talking about online sites; social networking. In my example; I wasn’t only talking about those sites but forums or blogs, or any place online. Like someone else said; people tend to be freer with themselves online. And, while that can be a buffer; it can also be harmful if say; some people are a little lulu.

    If it were possible; I’d show you what I mean and you’d see how this could escalate and be very much out of hand. Some of these social networking sites are used by kids who go to school together as well so it’s not like this is “just the internet” in those cases. Some situations can escalate to seem like they are all encompassing to someone who may not behave a certain way.

    When I was young; everyone picked on me because I was the shy quiet girl! Can you say TARGET! 😀 Online is different. I’ve had some pretty bad things; but nothing make me want to kill myself. But, maybe think that someone would not be above coming after me…..

  20. August 5, 2009 at 03:59

    I disagree that social networking is a suicide risk. There is no study that proves such claims. Social networking can help improve social life. Norms of social life may also be changing.

  21. 26 Dennis Junior
    August 6, 2009 at 03:09

    Social Networking Sites is not a suicide risk; But, the people who affiliated and/or use them have some mental health concerns….

    ~Dennis Junior~

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