Health Is Social

Infusing Social Media into Healthcare

Suicide of the Social Media Self

Who are you?

What is your self? At least: what do you consider to be your self?

Certainly your feelings, experiences, moods, thoughts, memories…they’re all vital and inter-acting elements of you.

But what about your tweets? What about your instant messages and all the other electronic extensions of whatever is you?

As the connection media we use become increasingly embedded in our daily lives, what happens to the self? How is it changed?

We are all having more ‘public’ lives like never before. It’s becoming, more and more, a default mode of our existence. Having a ‘private’ life is becoming more difficult – because even if you don’t have much presence online, others who know you do and they may be sharing bits of you in their networks.

So what happens when some people no longer wish to ‘live’ online and just want to go about their lives without connection via the Web?

What if some people decide life in social media just isn’t worth ‘living’?

For purposes of this post, let’s only think about people who aren’t suicidal in the traditional sense. They aren’t clinically depressed nor inherently unhappy with their lives per se. They simply get despondent concerning their “social media life”.

It’s an interesting question – one which I think we’ll see discussed more often in the near future.

If someone committed this kind of “suicide of the social media self”, what effect would it have on them? Would they be happier? Would it even be practical or possible?

Another way to think of this: as we move from the IRL life (or AFK life – away from keyboard) to the social media life, do we give up something of our selves?

If the cyber world is just as real as our “real” life, it stands to reason that suicide would have a social media analogue.

Might there be some kind of death taking place in our selves as we become increasingly enmeshed in these ever-evolving technologies? Could the act of moving to the social media life be a kind of inadvertent suicide of the AFK life – at least in some cases?

Might people who delete their social media presences have a longing to get back to their previous lives which they feel social media has hurt in some way?

I don’t know. These are just questions.

What about you?

Would you delete your Twitter account? Facebook? Your blog? Stop instant messaging? How much could you turn off? What would you leave on and why?

Would you die if you committed “suicide of the social media self”?

Or would you find something you left behind in your other life – Something you find harder to get as your self, and all the other selves around you, enter the social media life?

@PhilBaumann@HealthIsSocial

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National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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  • Interesting questions. I think it would affect people differently, depending on how attached to social media they’d become and also what kind of “IRL” social life they had.

    I also wonder – given the amount of people that have social media accounts but aren’t active – if the tendency is more simply to just fade away? A blog post every day becomes a blog every week to every month and then none. Active tweeting turns to passive stalking turns to just not opening Tweetdeck anymore. It does seem that – if someone had a level of followers and a decent presence – and they make the decision they no longer want to do it, that the ‘right’ thing to do would be to say goodbye and officially shut things down. But I suspect what happens is that people more often tend to move on, make other choices on what to spend their time, and fade away …

    • Phil Baumann

      Hi Wendy,

      I do think there would be different variations and reasons.

      I’d be interested in research – I’m not aware of much now, but I’m sure over time there might be some work in this area.

      I know I’m here to stay 😉 but I could see burnout become a problem for more people.

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  • Susan

    Hello Phil – interesting question and it started me thinking. In consideration of not cluttering up your comment section – I will give you the reader’s digest version. I think some of the despondency that people feel regarding their social media selves is due to the growing pains of developing & establishing that self. Reminds me somewhat of adolescence – with doubts and insecurities – getting past that can be a challenge for some. You might have been one of those people who breezed through adolescence – not me. 😉

    Once that happens, there is the effort of maintaining a healthy social media self while trying to balance a healthy IRL self. Yes, it takes effort, and you risk losing something of yourself if the social media part gets too strong. Do you risk losing part of your social media self if your IRL self is strong – I worry about that less. Adult experiential learning theory would suggest that those who made it through adolescence relatively unscathed should be able to use those experiences to facilitate adaptation to a new environment.

    That would be my humble analogy.

    • Phil Baumann

      Hi Susan

      I like that ‘adolescence’ point. It’s true, there is a growing phase to an online life. I’m sure that works in there.

      I would like to see this studied a bit more. I’d also be interested to see what Sherry Turkle would have to say on it. Her new book Alone Together touches on some of those themes.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/23/books/review/Lehrer-t.html

      Should be an interesting topic as time moves a long.

      Phil

  • BethM

    All of these questions are relevant–but my theory is that our “private” (aka real lives) vs. our “public” (aka online social lives) will go through a divergence. We will compartmentalize what we think is fit to be social vs what we do not– almost establishing two different personas.

    Don’t you do so already? I know I do….