The Blue Whale Challenge: A Psychological Analysis
What is the blue whale challenge?
The social media is already swarming with details of the blue whale challenge, a 50 step psychopathic game where in the victim is made to do 50 tasks ranging from watching horror movies to cutting themselves and finally the commission of suicide. The admin or "curator" of the game would have extracted all sorts of information about the player and threatens to use it (Cyber Bullying) if they decide to quit the game in between.
What is the Psychology behind this ?
The victims are usually teens who normally go through an intense turmoil often referred to as adolescent adjustment reaction as a result of physical and psychological changes that they start to experience when they reach this age.
Teenagers usually tend to listen to their friends more than their parents and often doesn't share their problems to their parents. The increased addiction to technology and the decreased interpersonal relations between people, (including parents and children) make them prone to depression and other psychological issues and makes it even more difficult to identify such cases.
The suicide rates among teens have also increased according to latest statistics.
The "Players" in the game are already a vulnerable population with depressive symptoms and negative frame of mind , who are "suggested" ( similar to Hypnosis) to do certain tasks. The additional threat to use personal information makes it difficult to quit and they tend to continue the tasks.
Cyber Bullying has been around for quite some time now, started with the advent of social media, people are often threatened with private photos, videos and made to do things or asked for money.
Blue whale challenge is just one bead in a necklace of cyberbullying methods.
The Bigger Picture
The Bigger Picture is that Mind related illnesses are increasing day by day be it depression, addiction or other adjustment issues. The advent of technology, the high level of dependence on it in our daily lives is affecting day to day functioning including interpersonal relationships and physical health.
The children who used to play outside in the park is glued to the tablet screens or mobile phones.
We think that using facebook, whatsapp and other latest technology is not hindering our lives, but the reality is alarming.
What is the solution?
The solution to the problem may not be absolute stoppage of the use of technology. We cannot ignore the advancements in technology and not use them to our advantage.
Cautious usage of social media is important. Dont share private pictures or videos or information on these platforms, dont install applications which are from 'unknown sources". Most of the smartphones show a warning which says "downloading this application may be harmful to your phone" before any attempt to download.
The key word is here a 'perfect balance'. A balance between the time we spend for usage of social media, gaming and for interpersonal relationships.
Parents should be aware of their child's online activity, they should start spending more time with their kids, talk to them, make them feel confident, and develop a good sense of understanding so that they will start sharing their problems.
And finally, HELP is available. If the parents feel that their child is going through stress or see any abnormal behavior in them, seek HELP. See a Psychiatrist or Psychologist before its too late. Seeing a Mental health Professional is often looked upon as a stigma, but remember that its not bigger than your child's life.
(The writer is a psychiatrist based in Kochi)