This month, an anonymous feedback application Sarahah has gone viral on both iPhones and Android phones. And if your social media timelines have been clogged with green coloured blurbs all week, it’s because people have been sharing the feedback they received anonymously on Facebook or Twitter for the rest of the world to see.
A Dangerous Social Media Phenomenon
Along with the seemingly harmless Sarahah surfaced another social media phenomenon that has unnerved parents and policy makers around the world in equal measure. It’s a set of 50 tasks targeted at youngsters aged between 10 and 14, who post clips of their completed tasks on social media with certain hashtags or on groups, all leading up to the final level which results in the player committing suicide in real life to complete the “Blue Whale Challenge”.
The tasks assigned range from etching a blue whale on one’s skin with a blade to waking up at unearthly hours to defying societal norms. Those who want to throw in the towel during the game are often bullied and receive death threats for themselves and their families.
Maharashtra’s Chief Minister too has acknowledged the lurking dangers, particularly in light of the suicide of a teenager in Mumbai, which was reportedly linked to the game. Investigations are on and the chief minister has said that he would take up the matter with the Centre.
That perhaps prompted the Indian government on Tuesday to direct companies like Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Microsoft and Yahoo to immediately remove all links to the sadistic online challenge from the internet.
Just What The Doctor (Didn’t) Order?
This week, we hit the streets of Mumbai to find out what drives the human mind towards these phenomena. Is it social voyeurism – the urge to share everything we do in our private lives? Or is it something inexplicable to a layman which can best be explained by medical experts?
Dr Chinmay Kulkarni, a psychiatrist from Mumbai who deals with several emotionally disturbed youngsters daily, explains, “There are a number of neurochemicals involved in this. Dopamine is the main one and it gives you a kind of feeling of pleasure whenever you achieve something.” He also elaborates how human minds always want reinforcements or acknowledgements via dopamine secretion, which is essentially what we are looking for with every like, re-tweet or share on every social media post.
(This article originally appeared in BloombergQuint, and has been republished here with permission.)
(#TalkingStalking: Have you ever been stalked? Share your experience with The Quint and inspire others to shatter the silence around stalking. Send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp @ +919999008335.)