Suicide phenomena through social media.

Suicide & Media – Friend or Foe ?


Facebook launches new suicide prevention tools in US. How true is this? Could it be controlled or prevented?

Facebook and suicide.

“Communicaton is the cement of identity. It is through communication that cultures define themselves.’ In modem societies, much of this sense of shared identity is communicated through media technologies” (Wheeler, 2015)

It is a much worth pondering topic for us who were born after the 90’s. Being born as the new generation n the rat race society with fast pace development of science and technology, it is not surprising to encounter a diversity of social culture being constructed today. Without realising, the social media has become part and parcel in our daily life. Talking about the new media, one has to know that the new media is referring to the combination of digital media and online media.

A new media constructs a society which put much emphasis on the communication with high speed, efficiency and accessibility. As a result, fast growth and spread of new information via media is often see as the part of globalization of culture even though the local culture traditions are also often adapted to the new media (Wheeler, 2015).

The media has become our friend, or foe in another way round. “Werther Effect” is a new thing to us here. An article published by Chan (2011), a lecturer-cum-psychiatrist in Malaysia postulates a true fact on the relationship between media and suicide. “Wether effect” (Which is a new terminology to us) is used to explain the phenomenon of imitation of copycat suicides attributed to the impact of sensationalized media reporting of suicides (Media: Friend or foe?). Alternatively, media is playing am implicit role in the occurrence of suicide cases in our societies today.

Worth mentioning, the Werther effect is further expanded in relation to the “Papageno effect” which referring to the action of media in conceptualizing any suicide-protective effects. In another word, the media itself is manipulating the suicide cases. How shall we look at the media? Does the media helping to prevent or it is actually the catalyst to people who ever have depressed or suicidal intention. Here is what we have to ponder about.

Perhaps, it is just some esoteric ideas that many do not know why are there relevance between the media and suicide.

Looking at the cases happened in Malaysia for the past few years, suicide is undoubtedly related to the media. The case of Alviss Kong, a 22-year-old teenager who posted his suicidal intentions on Facebook four months after he broke up with his girlfriend was heart-breaking news to the Malaysian society. His posted a “status” on Facebook barely an hour before he jumped off from his apartment building in Cheras Kuala Lumpur and he body was found sprawled on a car (Rashvinjeet, 2010). The responds from the society varied and the media has chosen to report this issue by publishing the status of Alvin Kong in his Facebook and also his picture taken with his girlfriend before him suicidal.

Alviss Kong.



Right after the case of Alviss Kong, the second similar suicidal happened in three years later. A 22year-old fresh final year student from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) commited suicide by felling from his apartment in Sungai Dua, after posting his apology to his family members on Facebook (Death after saying sorry on Facebook, 2013). His final examination result was believed to be a culprit to his suicidal.

So we see, social media is an example of new media and thus it is an ongoing trend now where by everyone will have at least one social account such as Facebook to be socialize with people all over the world. Those who don’t have at least one social account is consider as alienation to so call the “modern world”. Somehow, slowly the social media itself has become a place for person to show their hatred, problem and all the negative vibes towards others.
This social phenomena has also lead to even so-called “Facebook suicide” where by an individual choose to commit suicide right after things about them be posted up on Facebook by another person for public to view or even make a celebration by post out about his wish to commit suicide on social media. Question here is where are the sense of humanity in a human being? Or are we has becoming too open minded to be totally acceptance of such act?

Maybe we are lack of understanding why some people choose to commit suicide other than face it nor attempt to solve the problem. Is it because they have mental illness or is it lead by life pressure which cause them to even loss hope to live their life? As mentioned by Yarros (1921),
“We can understand men only by living and working with them, by “matching minds,” by studying and solving common problems together with them, by patiently seeking to apprehend other points of view, and putting ourselves in the place of those who seem to us, in our different place unreason-able or selfish and hard-hearted.” (p. 212)

Common sense suggested that people tend to commit suicide because they are to a great extent totally unhappy that they have chosen to give up on their life. However the idea of “happiness” is very abstract and subjective as happiness might bring different meaning to different people. One might claim that the degree of happiness is depend on quality of live overall so there won’t be scale or specific characteristic to measure happiness. But what about self-satisfaction? Satisfaction is a subjective idea while happiness on the other hand is more to instinctual.

A study by Weerasinghe and Tepperman (1994) found that one satisfaction is always related to their happiness as when an individual is feeling satisfied with life, he or she is actually feel satisfied for that one specific chapter of his life such as work but when an individual start to feel unsatisfied he will feel everything start to fall apart and end up being unhappy about life. This scenario is applicable to the case that we are discussing here as when the subject feels unsatisfied with his personal relationship, he tends to feel unhappy and thus decide to commit suicide. Social isolation made him feel like he was all alone but through social media he feel connectedness with people all over the world but still the isolation feeling is even greater than the connectedness itself.



Social media and society’s value structure.

Since new media emerged, its usage increased and the role of new media has been significant in the lives of society. This is due to its digital form whereby it became the most preferred form of communication used to convey and receive information, and is known to be the fastest and simplest medium. New media does not require much physical interaction and communication is still made possible even in a distance. Face-to-face interactions alternately decrease as the new media dominates both offline and online conversation through social media.

Social media is so powerful that it is able to shape social interactions and cause an affect towards interpersonal interactions. Traditionally, (meaning before the age of technology) information is delivered directly in a more personal manner. The trend in social interaction changes when technology kicks in and the value structure of society changes. Social interaction is constructed during the early stage of childhood especially when exposed to the visual mass media and thus, will create an impact and change in their value structure (Baran, 1969). The value structure here refers to how society’s view on the importance of keeping the channel occupied rather than understanding the content. For example, when the suisider posts a threat of commiting suiside, others are may think of it as a joke or the suisider may think of it as a way to inform an indirect but true message.

Living in a world where the Homo sapiens like us that always tried to exceed their limitations. For example, our social interaction has enabled us to connect with people in a way we never in our past history could before such as sending emails, making friends from all around the world that we may never be able to meet in person. However, this has made us lazy communicators maybe even in every aspect of our life. (Rao, n.d)

Based on the hierarchy of social communications, we often overlook what works. Most of the social media enhance us to share information, gossips with a click on the mouse like a “Share” button with ease or putting comments in someone’s status to send your regards. Everyone including me did that but does putting effort in social media equivalent to putting an effort into our relationships. Does social sharing resulted a real connection with that person? (Rao, n.d) Lets look out from the online world, how does it feel to give away a very well own decorated Christmas postcard than just a “Merry Christmas’s” post in someone’s facebook timeline? Think for yourself.

“We just feel we’ll just get more information and we don’t need to have ideas ourselves – we’ll get ideas from someone else, we don’t need to look at the data we’ll just see what someone else has said and so on.” (De Bono, as cited in Zevallos, 2011)

Edward De Bono, Maltese Philosopher and inventor of the “six hats method” stated that we are becoming lazy and stupid because of social media in his recent interview with and strongly suggested that young people should stay in school and start to learn how to think and socialize rather than spending hours on social media. (2011) However, Zevallos disagree with De Bono’s argument that social media makes people ‘lazy’ and ‘stupid’ is ill-informed argument, particularly by a scholar who has never used this technology. (2011) In order to survive in this globalization world, people need to be taught to think and act critically. It is need to involve learning about different communication mediums and strategies, which should include social media.
In addition to social media creates ‘laziness’, ‘slacktivism’ often referred as a new movement by the users on sites such as Twitter and Facebook as a medium for participating in social activism by just liking pages and voicing their opinions. With such actions, the users claiming they’re spreading awareness. A study done by the Intelligence Group as cited in Tifft’s work showed two out of three Millenials believes ‘slacktivism’ is capable of sparking more change than the petition on street. (2015) This shows how ‘laziness’ they could be in social media without taking any further action than just a click on the mouse that creates false sense of change. We should be more productive than just a ‘like’ or ‘share’, which is possible without a computer.


Baran, P. (1969). On the Impact of the New Communications Media upon Social Values. Law and Contemporary Problems, 34(2), 244-254.

Chan, L. F. (2011). Suicide and media: Friends or foe? Retrieved from

Rashvinjeet, S. Bedi. (2010, December 19). Heartbreak in Facebook world. The Star Online. Retrieved from

Rao, S. (n.d). Is social media making you a lazy communicator? Retrieved from

Tifft, S. (2015). Social media causes laziness. Retrieved from

Weerasinghe, J., & Tepperman, L. (1994). Suicide and happines: Seven tests of the connection. Social Indicators Reseach, 32(3), 199-233.

Wheeler, D. (2015). New media, globalization and Kuwaiti national identity. Middle East Journal, 54(3), 432-444.

Yarros, V. S. (1921). Isolation and social conflicts. American Journal of Sociology, 27(2), 211-221.

Zevallos, Z. (2011). Philosopher argues social media causes ‘laziness’. Retrieved from



  1. MOHD RIDZUAN · March 16, 2015

    good informative essay

    Liked by 1 person

  2. turtletouille · March 16, 2015

    Thank you Ridzuan. Do give us more feedback and we can share our thoughts will ya!


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