An inquest into the death of Tallulah Wilson, 15, suggests that social media may have influenced her decision to commit suicide.
Wilson, who was being treated for clinical depression and had a history of self harm, threw herself in front of a train less than 24 hours after her mother deleted her Tumblr.
The blog featured images of Wilson cutting her arms, as well as fabricated blog posts about alcohol and cocaine use. She frequently alluded to being unhappy and wanting to take her own life.
The girl’s psychiatrist suggests she might have felt like “part of her life had been stamped out” when her Tumblr was taken down. Wilson’s drug-taking online persona apparently had 18,000 followers, and seemed to be a form of escapism for the girl.
What’s worrying is the online culture that allows and even encourages teens to share images of self harm. In a community where users compare self-inflicted injuries, a phenomenon can develop where users compete to have the worst scars or the deepest cuts.
It seems likely that contributing to such an online community only fueled Wilson’s obsession with taking her own life.
In the same way that pro-anorexia bloggers encourage each other to indulge in destructive habits, self harm websites make it difficult for users to get help — doing so would mean disengaging from and “disappointing” the community they rely on for emotional support.
These communities create a disturbing bond between users, where self worth is based on one’s ability to be the best at being unwell.
Tumblr users searching for self harm are directed to counseling and prevention resources. But is that enough?
Raising awareness, and being more aware of our children’s online presences, are both good places to start. If Tallulah’s dependence on her Tumblr alter ego hadn’t been allowed to escalate, then perhaps more could have been done to help. The sad reality, of course, is that parents are largely unaware of their children’s online lives until it’s too late.