How many teen aged suicides is too many? Is seventeen in one year enough, especially if they're all from one small village?
How many does it take before we're willing to acknowledge that there might be a problem?
Switched.com reported yesterday that, with the discovery of young Jenna Parry's body hanging from a tree in the woods just outside of Bridgend, South Wales last week, the teenage suicide toll in that small town has hit 17 in the last year.
The string of suicides was started by Dale Crole, an 18 who hanged himself in an abandoned warehouse last January. A few weeks after his suicide, a memorial page dedicated to Dale popped up on Bebo, a British social-networking site (similar to MySpace). In the months following, sixteen teenagers from the same small town have followed suit--many believe in an effort to have their OWN memorial page on Bebo.
The only common thread tying the teens to each other was their usage of Bebo. They didn't all know each other (although many might have been passing acquaintances). They weren't victims of the same circumstances or life situations. They were merely looking to gain a measure of "virtual notoriety" in their "other" world--the world of Bebo.
I've written about MySpace, and Lori Drew and Megan Meier enough so that you know that I personally feel that MySpace-- and online social networking in general--is pretty dangerous. It lulls it's participants minds into thinking that this virtual network of friends is the ultimate reality, and their "standing" in their Social Networking world is FAR more important than their real standing in real life.
But it's reached new depths when it's grip on teens is so great that they yearn for the stardom that comes with a suicide. How twisted must a mind to be to be willing to takes ones own life, in order to gain some measure of virtual post-mortem notoriety--not for anything substantive they've done.
Imagine killing yourself--taking your life--simply so that you might have a page on a website dedicated you. A page that will only be looked at by virtual acquaintances-those acquaintances who only know you as a postage stamp sized photograph and a few generic blurbs ("my favorite music is opera; I'm a Virgo; I like to lobster fish in my spare time...").
Will we ever learn? Why do we still allow our young teenagers to spend time in this dangerous world? I'm rarely in favor of legislating effective change (because that's a bit of any oxymoron), but I am in favor of us, as good citizens, taking some measure of responsibility for ourselves and for those who depend on us, and steering clear of those venues which have proven time and again to be extraordinarily dangerous.
I'm curious; I ask you, faithful MyndFood readers: has this reality, the danger of these Virtual Social Networking sites, caused you to restrict your visiting them?
Why (or why not)?
And, please: be careful out there. dangers lurk everywhere...