Tumblr is planning a new policy against self-harm blogs. This includes “blogs that glorify or promote anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders; self-mutilation; or suicide.”
Tumblr will prohibit to post content that actively promotes or glorifies self-injury or self-harm and will start posting ““public service announcement”-style language whenever users search for tags that typically go along with pro-self-harm blogs.”
Some years ago I went to a little conference about this issue. I was studying psychology and I ran a tiny blog, so I was interested in the matter. An Italian blogs platform (recently closed) promoted this event in which a bunch of so-called experts were invited to give their opinions. Let’s say it was a complete failure, and the two executives of the blog-publishing service that were present admitted it was a failure, and I could see that their expectations had been dramatically disappointed. Of course none of the “experts” understood anything about what they were asking to them. One of these experts is a well known psycho-something that never misses an opportunity to show up in any talk show, saying common-sense things as if they were groundbracking truths. Another is a psychiatrist (a famous one, besides teaching in a university, he runs a professional organization and an institute for cognitive psychotherapy) that later I had the great displeasure to know because he was a promoter of “riparative therapies”, the criminal practices aimed to turn an homosexual back into a straight person. I wrote a post about this on my blog, and he came claiming I was defaming him.
It was some years ago (2007, sigh!), but those “experts” were still back in the 70’s (and maybe even further). They stated that internet is bad for people, that it reinforces maladaptive behaviors and narcissism, and that it promotes mental illness. They were (are) morons.
I remember that that blogs platform was facing the same dilemma Tumblr is facing now, censoring or let the things as they are. They were well aware that if they had decided to censore those kind of blogs, those users would have simply changed platforms.
I feel the same about the new Tumblr policy. I’m not saying that they are making the wrong decision, in fact I’m very glad they acknowledged this issue and decided to think about something to do, but I’m worried that even if their new policy could really eradicate this kind of blogs (and I’m not entirely sure it can, they say it will work searching for key words tipically associated with pro-self-harm blogs, and we all know how simple it is to bypass this kind of filters), those users would just migrate to some other blog platform.
I haven’t a solution to this issue. I’d like to read some serious researches on the subject, but from what I saw there aren’t any.
I ask myself if this kind of blogs can actually promote something, if they can really influence other people, if a girl who is at risk for anorexia, or a boy at risk for self-harm, can really be pushed by those blogs, or if those girls and boys would find a way of expressing their problem anyway. I ask myself what is the real function of this kind of blogs for the people who write them, if besides being a way of expressing themselves and their emotional distress they are also a way of creating a bond with other people who face similar issues, a way (not an adaptive one) to feel less alone and therefore even a way to try to auto-medicate.
After writing this post I searched for posts about the new policy and I spent several minutes reading the opinions of some of those who run this kind of blog. It was somehow educative.
I have mixed feelings about suicide. Like John Stuart Mill, I think that “over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign” and therefore that suicide is a legitimate act.
We can generally agree that there are different motivations to think about terminating own life, but the great majority of suicides are committed by people with some mental disorder. In this case I don’t think that it’s right to consider suicide a “free” choice, just like for the paranoic it’s not a “free” choice to distrust other people.
I think that a depressed (for example) person that attempts suicide need to be helped, with medication, with therapy, and even narrowing of his/her individual rights.
There are other reason that can lead to suicide. Sometimes ago I posted about the fact that the suicide rate in Greece has doubled in the last tree years. The fact that in the last tree years the economic and financial crisis has hit very badly Greece, is not just a case. I think the socio-economic factors triggered underlying problems, and that many of these people would have not committed suicide without that social situation. Also in this case (and similar cases) I think suicide it’s not a “free” choice, and that those people need help.
I used “free” instead of just free, because I think our actions are always influenced by a multitude of things, many of which we are not aware about.
For the matter “have you ever thought about it” and “would you ever”: yes, I have thought about it, but in intellectual terms, not that I had suicidal thoughts, and yes, I would (but it’s not on my plan).
Widespread media coverage of specific methods of suicide may lead to copycat deaths and could initiate changes in the popularity of particular methods. At-risk individuals may use the Internet to research particular methods of suicide, and a person’s choice of method can influence case fatality.
Chang, Page and Gunnell investigated the effect of media coverage of suicide by hydrogen sulfide gassing on trends in Internet searches in Japan and United Kingdom.
In Japan, news reports of three deaths using this method in late February 2008 were followed by more than 200 hydrogen sulfide suicides during the subsequent 4 months . This epidemic was thought to be fueled by information on the Internet about making the gas. In the United Kingdom, extensive media coverage on September 20, 2010, of a suicide pact using this method was followed by a second hydrogen sulfide suicide pact within 10 days and another in February 2011. […]
In Japan, online searches for “hydrogen sulfide” increased 50 times in April 2008 after the initial media reports in February 2008, surpassing the search volume for “suicide”. In the United Kingdom, the number of online searches for “hydrogen sulfide” did not increase as much as they did in Japan, but the searches nevertheless rose by more than nine times in the week of the suicide pact reports compared with the previous 4 weeks. The search volume for “hydrogen sulfide” in this period was only 7.1% of that for “suicide,” which also increased by 57% in the week of the suicide pact reports compared with the previous 4 weeks.
These data suggest a striking impact of media coverage of an unusual method of suicide on Internet searches relating to that method. […]
Western countries are noted to be the richest, and perhaps, even the happiest.
A little-noted puzzle is that many of these happy places have unusually high rates of suicide. While this fact has been remarked on occasionally for individual nations, especially for the case of Denmark, it has usually been attributed in an anecdotal way to idiosyncratic features of the location in question (e.g., the dark winters in Scandinavia), definitional variations in the measurement of well-being and suicide, and differences in culture and social attitudes regarding happiness and taking one’s life.
In their paper Daly, Oswald, Wilson and Wu (‘Dark Contrasts: The Paradox of High Rates of Suicide in Happy Places’) examined this paradox: why happier areas have a higer percentage os suicides? They suggest that:
although one’s own happiness protects one from suicide […] the level of others’ happiness is a risk factor. Personal unhappiness may be at its worst when surrounded by those who are relatively more content with their lives. […]
Discontented people in a happy place may feel particularly harshly treated by life. Those dark contrasts may in turn increase the risk of suicide. […]
In the same way:
Suicide rates may be higher, for example, in areas of low than high unemployment, because being jobless is more isolating in a place where everyone else has a job than in one where most of your peers are unemployed too. (via NewScientist)
Sucidi in Danimarca.
Ci sono molte teorie sulla ragione per cui in Danimarca –ma più in generale nei paesi scandinavi– il tasso di suicidi sia tra i più alti al mondo. Alcuni dicono che sia per via delle lunghe notti sub-artiche, altri pensano al diffuso abuso d’alcool favorito dal freddo intenso, altri ancora incolpano le distanze: città e paesi piccoli e molto lontani tra loro, donde la solitudine e la tentazione di togliersi la vita. La mia personale teoria, per quel che vale, è che gli scandinavi, usufruendo di un’avanzatissima rete di protezione sociale, abbiano troppo pochi problemi. Quando non hai problemi ti rimane il tempo per riflettere sul senso della vita e quando rifletti troppo a lungo sul senso della vita finisci sempre per concludere che non ha alcun senso il che, per gli spiriti più conseguenti, dovrebbe essere motivo sufficiente a suicidarsi. Tutto questo, naturalmente, non spiega come mai in Danimarca –ma nei paesi scandinavi in generale– il tasso di suicidi tra i più alti del mondo non ce l’abbiano manco per un cazzo.
Non vorrei fare il precisino (e sono d’accordo con la teoria esposta), ma la mappa è relativa alle “self-inflicted injuries”, non ai suicidi. Cioè, per i non anglofoni, stiamo guardando una mappa di diffusione di casi di ferite autoinflitte. Il suicidio appartiene a questa categoria? :/
La mappa riportata potrebbe averci a che vedere, in ogni caso se si vuole essere più precisi ci sono i dati che ha pubblicato il Guardian nel gennaio di quest’anno relativi al tasso di suicidio in Europa nell’anno 2008, e bisogna dire che la Danimarca non sfiora affatto i primi posti, che sono accupati invece da Lituania, Ungaria e Slovenia.
Se poi si prendono i dati mondiali, in bella mostra su wikipedia, la Lituania, spiace dirlo, ma è pure leader mondiale.
Questo basterebbe a invalidare molte delle “teorie” sopra descritte, nonchè l’ultima, in quanto sembra difficile affermare che la Lituania abbia “un’avanzatissima rete di protezione sociale”, perchè per esempio era fra il 2003/2004 il paese dell’Unione Europea con il peggior sistema sanitario, e per quanto le cose siano migliorate, non m’immagino che ora sia all’avanguardia.
Update: Guardando la fonte originale della mappa sopra riportata preciso che sì, si parla di ferite autoinflitte che causano la morte, inoltre c’è un dato ‘curioso’, ma penso che a leggerla attentamente se ne troverebbero molti, sembra che l’Organizzazione Mondiale della Sanità, da cui provengono i dati, stimi che in Afganistan nel 2004 ci fossero più o meno lo stesso numero di morti causati da ferite autoinflitte e dalla guerra.
I numeri precisi sono, se la matematica non m’inganna e devo dire che lo fa spesso, circa 1881 suicidi e circa 1941 vittime di guerra.