In India, a “small but growing number” of the millions of users of Orkut and Facebook are using the social sites for advice and support, Sify.com reports. “Social-networking sites are increasingly taking the shape of the new age online ‘agony aunt’,” kind of the British term for a “Dear Abby.” Sify sites the experience of Sarath, who is looking out for a kidney donor for himself and turned to a social site for advice about the process. “The popularity of such networking sites turning out to be the agony aunt can be gauged from the hundreds of help communities that have been set up, be it from complex issues like kidney transplants, blood cancer to much smaller issues like teenage heart breaks,” Sify adds. What I hope Indian and all other young people do is think critically about the responses they get and seek out second and third opinions online as much as they would offline (see, too, and interesting blog post, “How will rural India deal with social networking?” – especially the bold comments at the bottom about the place of mobility and diversity of personal relationships in social networking). The negative side of seeking advice online, of course, is when at-risk youth get reinforcement for destructive behaviors such as cutting, eating disorders, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts. One credible, immediate source of help might be the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which coordinates the work of hotlines nationwide for people with questions about depression, relationships, loneliness, substance abuse, and how to help friends and loved ones, as well as suicide (see also “The social Web’s ‘Lifeline'”).
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