Social media - home to stories of travel, news,and regular life updates from loved ones, friends and acquaintances. We have heard various accounts of how social media have seemingly influenced how we lead our lives these days. While we may not agree what the effects of social media may be, but one thing is for certain – social media has become a medium of how we express ourselves.
We are often familiar with posts of #OOTDs, café flat lays, Disney filters on Instagram etc. Posts that exude the perfect life of celebrities typically gains most attention – and these positive vibes become the mainstay across all our social media feed.
Social media has evolved to become one of the more prominent ways people use to express their emotions and the ups and downs of life. While we are comfortable sending congratulatory messages over joyous news online, coming across solemn posts that hints at sadness and distress may leave us at a lost. We see fewer engagement with depressing and emotional posts as most people feel uncomfortable and helpless not knowing what to say in such situations. Some may simply double tap to “like” the post. Others may ignore, scroll past and move on.
It is not a rare sight to come across online posts that reflect feelings of loneliness, isolation and hopelessness. Outside of one’s personal social media account, anonymous posts asking for advice have also appeared on Reddit, HardwareZone, NUSWhispers and NTU Confessions, to name a few. One may wonder what might be the best way to react to such posts then since we may not necessarily know what is going on.
Today, vigilance on social media is more crucial than ever. Users may express themselves in ways they probably would not in real life on the various available platforms. A distressed post may be an online cry for help and may be an indicator that they are not coping well in life. In such cases, early interventions can be life-changing.
Below are some general tips on what you can do if you come across posts that worries you:
1. Check in with yourself
Before you reach out, it is important to check in with yourself. Ask if you are ready to engage and respond to someone who maybe in crisis. If you are concerned but do not feel comfortable reaching out, do not feel like it is entirely your responsibility. Instead, you can do the following:
(i) Inform a trusted adult or friend.
(ii) Seek professional advice. You can reach out to various community resources or SOS via our 24-hour Hotline or Email Befriending (firstname.lastname@example.org).
(iii) Report suicidal content to the relevant platforms.
2. Report the post
It is important to highlight potential suicidal or harmful behavior for possible interventions. Social media platforms typically have a team that helps identify and respond to individuals at risk of self-harm. By making an anonymous report to the relevant social media platform (e.g. Facebook Help Centre), the respective team will look into the report and reach out to the person in crisis with information and resources that may be helpful to them.
3. Reach out and express your concern
If you decide to respond, let the person know that you care and specify exactly why you are worried about them (e.g. “I saw your post and it seems that you are going through a tough time”). This can be done through private message on social media.
Let them know that you care and respond without judgement. Give them the space and time to express their troubles and listen as the person shares his/her emotions with you instead of imposing one’s views/values on them.
4. Reassure that support is available
Beyond reaching out, knowing where someone can seek help is important as well. Consider providing them the contact details of appropriate community services and encourage them to seek help if they are not able to cope with their thoughts and emotions. Here are some resources that may be helpful.
The above tips are not solely restricted to one’s close friends and loved ones. Reaching out to acquaintances or even celebrity accounts can be just as helpful. A short message of encouragement and support, from people they least expect, can be equally uplifting and heartwarming.
It is important to take all talks of suicide seriously and be attentive to the subtle signs of emotional pain on social media. When someone’s post seems to be more negative than usual, trust your instincts and take action to show your concern and support. Let them know that they matter.
It is time for us to stop passively “liking” and start caring. You will never know when your message of concern may potentially save a life.
KNOW SOMEONE WHO MAY BE FACING A CRISIS OR GOING THROUGH A TOUGH TIME? LEARN WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP SOMEONE IN CRISIS, OR FIND OUT MORE ABOUT OUR SERVICES HERE.