Some see social networking about the death of a friend or family member cathartic. Some as a means of detecting suicidal tendencies. Others are concerned it might reinforce such tendencies. In any case, “the world’s first generation to double-click its way through elementary school is using the Web to stay connected — even in death,” reports the St. Petersburg Times. Dr. Ilene Berson and other faculty members at the University of South Florida’s Mental Health Institute are seeking funding to research that question, to see “whether social networking web sites create a suicide contagion effect.” They’ll analyze the conditions surrounding the deaths of MySpace members who committed suicide, as well as behavior on MyDeathSpace.com (see my earlier item on this), where the activity isn’t all about eulogizing. “Anger, curiosity and bravado reign on MyDeathSpace forums, where strangers pick apart the writings of MySpace members who die,” according to the Times. The positive side of such public display of death is suicide prevention. At a recent conference on social networking, representatives of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline said that referrals from MySpace users have become the largest source of calls to the hotline. During research for our book, MySpace Unraveled, Lifeline director John Draper told us, “Increasingly, kids are using their profiles “to in some ways convey that they had suicidal intent. There is very much the potential for saving lives because the first people to hear about kids at risk are other kids.” The Lifeline is setting up federally funded suicide prevention profiles on MySpace, Xanga, and Facebook. Here’s more coverage on grieving online in the Boston Globe and the Lexington Herald-Leader. As for online obituaries, go to the Washington Post.
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