Author’s Note: This post contains language involving suicide and self harm that may be triggering for some readers. Please proceed with caution.
Recently we were discussing genre in my American literature class. The Hunger Games came up, specifically the newly popular young adult dystopian universe genre. My professor asked a simple question:
Why are the Hunger Games so popular? Is it because teenagers have like inner Hunger Games drama where everything is the end of the world to them? You know…with the bubble letters in their notebooks it’s easy to see how that would be traumatic.
Granted, it is a slightly flippant question but it got me thinking.
I frequent a website for a popular computer game (obviously you can figure out which one from the title of this post). The game draws in players of all ages from all walks of life. It’s not uncommon for a member to chat with bouncey middle schoolers one moment and a disabled veteran the next. This opens an entirely different can of worms but that’s fodder for another post.
The site itself has a Facebook-like design with the purpose of chatting one-on-one about the video game. The older players enjoy chatting about new game modifications, where to find the best tutorials, and trading other game related secrets. The younger players, and by that I mean those players younger than 17, spend their nights hashing out topics that are bigger than they know.
Most nights there is talk of who is dating whom on the site. So-and-so cheated with Whats-His-Name and then That-Other-Girl was upset with Whos-a-Whatsit and can you believe what Some-Guy said about Bob. Seriously, you’d think you were at the beauty parlor with a bunch of old biddies. It’s harmless chit-chat (except for those who give their addresses and phone numbers out like the Rapture is tomorrow) and therefore it’s not that concerning for me.
It’s the darker comments that linger in my mind. Not a night passes without a young gamer self-harming or having some sort of ridiculous life crisis that requires swallowing a bottle of pills and then tweeting about it. There is a big to-do and many of the other young gamers get in a tizzy trying to save the dying member who realizes death isn’t the best choice so they decide to live and the next day everyone is back to normal.
To be perfectly honest, it happens so often it’s become obvious that nobody is actually killing themselves, or even trying for that matter. It almost feels cruel to say but what may have started as a cry for attention now just feels like they are crying wolf.
To make matters worse, the plot lines (because that’s what they are at this point) are becoming increasingly predictable and decreasingly realistic. The other night for example there was a tale of star-crossed lovers that would have put Shakespeare to shame in his day.
A young girl’s boyfriend was suicidal so she felt the need to kill herself so they could be together in death. I had a sinking feeling it was going to be another one of those nights on the site. Lo and behold, he died but she didn’t. There was much ado about nothing because the next day he was alive again. Apparently he lost 95% of his blood but after a transfusion and hours of CPR he’s fine. He might have some minor brain damage but that will be fixed with medication.
I am not trying to make light of the situation. I was treated for depression when I was younger. I know that these are real and scary thoughts for some people. However, when young kids start concocting tall tales about suicide I find myself filled with rage and despair. There are people out there who need help, real help because they are actually considering suicide for very real reasons.
This whole thing leaves me with a grungy feeling. I don’t like thinking that young children are contemplating suicide. I dislike the idea that they use it for attention even more. Do they really want to die? Am I just too damn cynical? Am I just older and wiser and see the bigger picture? Have I lived all these plot lines before in movies? Is it a lack of parental control? Do they even know how serious their words are?
My heart is heavy with hurts when I ponder these questions. I am desperately concerned for these children. I am even more afraid that there is one child out there who is actually considering suicide only to have their cries for help lost in the chorus of those crying wolf.