Temporal and Geographic Patterns of Social Media Posts About an Emerging Suicide Game
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Temporal and Geographic Patterns of Social Media Posts About an Emerging Suicide Game

Filetype[PDF-542.83 KB]

  • English

  • Details:

    • Alternative Title:
      J Adolesc Health
    • Description:

      Rates of suicide are increasing rapidly among youth. Social media messages and online games promoting suicide are a concern for parents and clinicians. We examined the timing and location of social media posts about one alleged youth suicide game to better understand the degree to which social media data can provide earlier public health awareness.


      We conducted a search of all public social media posts and news articles on the Blue Whale Challenge (BWC), an alleged suicide game, from January 1, 2013, through June 30, 2017. Data were retrieved through multiple keyword search; sources included social media platforms Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, Tumblr, as well as blogs, forums, and news articles. Posts were classified into three categories: individual “pro”-BWC posts (support for game), individual “anti”-BWC posts (opposition to game), and media reports. Timing and location of posts were assessed.


      Overall, 95,555 social media posts and articles about the BWC were collected. In total, over one-quarter (28.3%) were “pro”-BWC. The first U.S. news article related to the BWC was published approximately 4 months after the first English language U.S. social media post about the BWC and 9 months after the first U.S. social media post in any language. By the close of the study period, “pro”-BWC posts had spread to 127 countries.


      Novel online risks to mental health, such as prosuicide games or messages, can spread rapidly and globally. Better understanding social media and Web data may allow for detection of such threats earlier than is currently possible.

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