Take the 2-minute tour ×
Cognitive Sciences Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for practitioners, researchers, and students in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Background: I saw this post on the daily Mirror: A girl committed suicide because some users bullied her on ask.fm. I signed up to see what that site is, and it was some Q&A site. So she committed suicide just because someone bullied her, someone she doesn't know, maybe a bot! That article said that many other teens did the same.

I'm broadly interested in why do teens in particular take the internet so seriously. As Sherry Turkle said, we're connected but alone. And she said that the internet is all about sex, lies and avatars.

Questions

  • Why do teenagers take the Internet so seriously?
  • Is it because they are attached too much to the internet?
  • Are they trying to escape real life by building virtual worlds?
  • Is there any study research on this?
share|improve this question
    
I removed a bit of the editorializing from the question, as I think it detracted from what you were trying to ask. –  Chuck Sherrington Aug 7 '13 at 14:13
    
@ChuckSherrington ok sir, thank you :) –  Fischer Aug 7 '13 at 14:14
1  
@Skippy i think you meant @Fischer, if you're asking me, you can answer with links or without links :) –  Fischer Aug 7 '13 at 16:36
    
@Skpippy I'm not Fischer, either;-) But in general I would say that it's not so much about links, but rather about a reference. But maybe that's what you meant, anyway. In this case, never mind! –  Jens Kouros Aug 7 '13 at 17:03
1  
In my opinion the title of the question is not realy the same as what u question there. Real vs virtual lives are a huge matter wich the reason is most of the times because they feel their real life is a crap and they tend to imerge into a virtual one where they feel much better. It may have nothing to be with mental disturbs like those who fall for bullying so easy mostly have. –  Enoque Duarte Aug 7 '13 at 17:19
show 2 more comments

3 Answers 3

up vote 13 down vote accepted

I would like to begin by saying this answer is based on my opinion. All the statements I make are conclusions I have drawn and may or may not have merit.


  • Firstly, it is unlikely the cyber bullying would be the main cause of someone to suicide. The underlying reasons for suicide run deeper than this. I believe their problems ran far deeper than recent external events. Of course, bullying will not help a person in deep depression, and could assist in pushing someone close to the edge, however, I think the whole process behind someone committing suicide takes more thought and a deep level of depression (endogenous or otherwise).

  • It seems social networking and certainly the internet, has involved many people, of a varying age range. From the conflicts that ensue all over the internet, it is not limited to teenagers.

The fastest growing segment of social media users is now adults aged 45-54%.


  • The problem with teenagers, is they have less experience at handling their emotions and reactions (just by the mere fact of years of experience due to age alone), coupled with soaring hormone changes. Most would agree puberty and the ensuing years of a person's development are challenging for both the person and those around them.

    This leaves the teenager as likely to be:
    More impulsive.
    More affected by others behaviour.


  • People who are "content" and occupied in their "real lives" do not seek to "build" and find solace in a "virtual" life.

I think cyber relationships serve many purposes and the dynamic of human interaction has developed, so that the group mentality is magnified. The anonymity and perceived (and in many ways real) freedom of consequence of user expression online has enabled a level of what (at least was until recently) socially unacceptable behaviour. A bravado and propensity for abuse that may not be present when two people are face to face in a local car park or shopping centre.

Having said that, the school playground can be a tough one, for ostracising children and bullying. I believe that face to face confrontations have a greater impact than those online.

I believe much of our emotional reactions to our online experience are charged with the emotion of our "real life" experience. Let's face it, we are communicating with faceless people. Psychologically this would be a less powerful experience. Another way of saying "Art imitating life".

Having said that, a young person at higher risk of suicide, may well turn to the internet to find friends and support.

Factors that increase the risk of suicide among teens include:

  • lack of a support network, poor relationships with parents or peers, and feelings of social isolation

So, in conclusion:
I don't believe teenagers are destroying their lives, whilst building virtual lives. (this was the title of the question when I posted my answer)

I believe that :

  • with real life trials
  • with the propensity within a young person for depression and potential suicide
  • with the mitigating factors that may increase the likelihood for a person to commit suicide
  • and the loosened boundaries found over the internet.

Our teenagers are in danger of being badly affected by their virtual lives.

share|improve this answer
2  
you should do a Ted Talk about that subject sir :) great answer! –  Fischer Aug 7 '13 at 18:06
1  
For a generation growing up with smart phones and (in my country) every adolescent having a Facebook account, online activities are a regular part of "real life". There is no "virtual life", social networks are one of many channels of communication like telephone, letters written under the school desk and passed from hand to hand, graffiti with love or hate messages or talking face to face. –  what Sep 2 '13 at 14:49
add comment

Suicide is always a complex issue with many factors combining to put a person in a position whereby they feel that they have no alternative.

It is dangerous to simplify this and say "she killed herself because she was being bullied online" because the majority of young people who are affected so severely by online bullying have underlying vulnerabilities which make the effect of the bullying worse. For example, Megan Meier, who committed suicide in 2006 following MySpace bullying and humiliation, was already an incredibly vulnerable young person who had been on medication for depression for some time before she died.

To answer your specific questions:

Why do teenagers take the Internet so seriously? Because young people do not differentiate between what is the Internet and what is real life. To them, the Internet IS real life. Popularity is no longer measured by the number of friends you have in the playground or whether you hang out with the 'cool' kids, but by how many facebook friends you have, how many likes your latest status got, how many 'kiks' you have and how many people ask you questions on Ask.fm.

Is it because they are attached too much to the internet? No, it's because the Internet is an integral part of their lives.

Are they trying to escape real life by building virtual worlds? They may be looking to 'fill a gap' in their offline life by building up a large number of 'virtual' friends to share their secrets with in an anonymous environment where they are judged only by their number of friends, not by looks or social status.

Is there any study research on this? Lots! Forget academia, look at media literacy surveys and interviews with kids about their social media lives including this one by McAfee: http://promos.mcafee.com/en-US/PDF/lives_of_teens.pdf

share|improve this answer
add comment

Actually it's an easy and hard question at the same time.

The easy answer is that her brain failed when compared with the standard brain model we take as a model (brain of a conscious normal teenager).

The hard part is which parts of the brain made the "wrong" (not expected decision be our society and most people in her age) thing and she commits a suicide.

I would guess she had some problem with her limbic system (love, emotional stuff), maybe some malfunction or wrongs conformation of neuropathways in that area etc.

Who knows?

Maybe some chemicals like contraception pills or some drugs were involved. But I don't think it was casued by this in her case.

I wouldn't blame parents or friends in this case. E.g. I had a friend, a girl, who was very well educated and intelligent, good parents, very pretty and popular. 4 years ago she hang her-self. It was like a nightmare. Nobody would expect that and still she killed herself.

Why? Brain malfunction. Which part of the brain? Probably impossible to tell with our current understanding of the brain.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.