With the ever increasing presence of cyber bullying, a growing number of suicidal status updates, it’s important that we understand potential online warning signs and how to react to them.
Here are three ways to make sure you are being a responsible Facebook friend.
Pay Attention Offline
It’s important to keep an eye out for any warning signs indicating your friend or family member might be depressed.
Providing an open, comfortable and empathic environment is key, both online and off. Be a good listener and encourage others to do the same.
Once they have support in their every day life, they may not need to turn to Facebook to bolster or hinder their self-esteem or to purge sad and hateful messages.
If they’re closing themselves off to you in person, the next best place to see how they’re feeling is on Facebook.
Watch For Changes In Online Behavior
If a friend of yours is utilizing Facebook in a way that is uncharacteristic of them — posting a lot of statuses that seem out of the ordinary, or dropping off the face of the Internet world when generally they’re very active – this could be a warning sign.
Keep an eye on the content they’re posting and reach out to them directly, or report the content if you’re concerned by their online presence or absence. This has recently been made even easier for all ages with counseling services now available on Facebook.
Don’t Cry Wolf or Assume Others Are
In the highly publicized case of Simone Back, only one of her 1,082 Facebook friends took her plea for help seriously. If more had, perhaps the outcome would’ve been different.
It’s imperative that if you see a status implying the poster might do harm to him or herself, you report it immediately by clicking the report link and filling out this form.
When you do, an email is sent to the Facebook user who posted the content, encouraging him or her to contact a distress hotline via phone or the new instant messaging chat, which is even faster.
In addition, carefully screen your own online content, and encourage your children and teens to do the same: Avoiding overly morbid sarcasm and dark humor that might be desensitizing or seriously worry those reading it.
If you see any kind of activity online that might require someone to use the new service, take action immediately by reaching out directly to the user and reporting the activity.
Guest writer Sarah Beauchamp is a freelance blogger.