“KMS”, “shoot me now”, and “this class makes me want to kill myself” are all common phrases that can be heard around high schools. Why do students joke about suicide when it is such a serious and prevalent issue in society today? Much of the current generations are greatly influenced by media, whether that be television, books, or online. The book, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, and the Netflix show by the same title both bring light to the sensitive issue of suicide and its cause, but whether that attention is positive is to be determined. Through media, society has grown almost an immunity to the seriousness of suicide and play it down as something to be joked about.
While 13 Reasons Why had the right idea when making a whole book and television series about the issue of suicide, it has been critiqued over and over again about how it poorly handled this sensitive topic. Social media sites, such as Twitter, have brought some much needed attention to the show, and therefore continues to make users, viewers, and readers more aware of how every action can have a terrible repercussion, but also brings forth the issue of increased risk of youth suicide. Young people are more likely to the kill themselves if someone they know, whether that is a fictional character or a real person, has ended their own life. Not only that, but the show and book play Hannah Baker’s suicide off as a revenge plot, sending tapes to one person after the next. These tapes were used to not just explain Hannah’s reason for killing herself, but also to put blame and guilt on the people she thought deserved it. This way of thinking puts the wrong idea into people’s head and could lead someone to think that suicide is just a way to get back at the people who wronged them, not a way to end their suffering.
Suicide isn’t always seen as a single occurrence. Columbia University calls suicide a “contagion”. Suicidal and behavioral contagions can be described as a certain action spreading rapidly and spontaneously through a group of people, as most human behavior is obtained through observation. Teens and adolescents are particularly affected by media messages regarding suicide. Globally, suicide rates tend to go down as the age is increased. Much of the younger generations use or have used social media and are therefore exposed to all of the posts, tweets, photos, and information shared on these platforms, and while being integrated into society through these websites can be helpful, bullying and discrimination are an everyday occurrence online. Means of bullying are easier and more accessible today than ever through social media sites. Common posts telling an individual to kill themselves happens more often than one would like to admit, but it happens nonetheless. For a person with pre-existing mental issues, receiving these messages could drive them over the edge and to a place where they might possibly consider suicide or display suicidal thoughts or actions.
Social media is a place that is not too often taken seriously. It is a digital escape from the real world and allows users to be able to joke about something relevant or something they fear in society today, but along with these jokes comes the point at which these serious issues become nothing but a silly tweet, meme, or idea. This gives the wrong idea about topics such as suicide, claiming that it is only a joke instead of something that people should be aware of and know how to prevent.