Social Media and its Densensitization of Serious Issues

To say that Kehlani has had a difficult past 72 hours would be an understatement.

Image via Kehlani's Instagra,

Image via Kehlani’s Instagra,

On Monday, March 28, PartyNextDoor, a Canadian rapper and ex-boyfriend of Grammy nominated R&B singer-songwriter Kehlani, 20, posted a photo of the two apparently holding hands in his bed. Neither of their faces were shown. However, the tattoo on one the hands mirrors tattoos of Kehlani. The photo has since been deleted off of PartyNextDoor’s Instagram account.

The caption for the photo read:

After all her shenanigans, still got the r&b singer back in my bed

The Internet completely went wild. Up until this moment the assumption was that Kehlani was still dating Cleveland Cavaliers player Kyrie Irving. Since this was the assumption, Kehlani was immediately and aggressively judged and sentenced in the court of public opinion. Her sentence? She was slut-shamed and even threatened with physical violence.

Kehlani announced Tuesday with a post on Instagram that she had attempted to commit suicide. In the post, which has since been deleted, Kehlani shared a photo from her hospital bed with the caption that read:

today I wanted to leave this earth. Being completely selfish for once. Never thought I’d get to such a low point. But.. Don’t believe the blogs you read .. No one was cheated on and I’m not a bad person… Everyone is hurt and everyone is in a place of misunderstanding.. But as of today, i had no single wish to see tomorrow.. But God saved me for a reason, and for that… I must be grateful.. Cuz I’m not in heaven right now for a reason.. On that note.. Bye Instagram.

This did not stop The Internet from continuing to harass and slut-shame the singer on social media. In an attempt to clear up something that is absolutely none of our business, Kehlani posted a photo to Instagram with a caption explaining that she did not cheat on Kyrie Irving because the two are currently broken up.

Many people, including some celebrities, took to the internet to show support for Kehlani. The hashtag #StayStrongKehlani emerged and trended on Twitter. However, despite the positive energy flowing from fans and supporters, many others were still critical of Kehlani and even a suicide attempt couldn’t soften their blows.

Singer Chris Brown even used his ‘expertise’ to criticize Kehlani’s suicide attempt.

The truth is that now we live during a time where many of us share almost every aspect about our lives on social media. I have seen photos of pregnancy tests shared on Instagram from people that I have not seen in the last 10 years. I see screenshots of business emails sent from professionals that people post on a weekly basis. This has become social media’s norm. I am shocked that people are still surprised and find it unbelievable that individuals share things as serious as suicide on their social media networks. Even research from Ohio State University indicates that “adolescents commonly use social media to reach out when they are depressed.”

Suicide continues to be a serious problem across the United States and the rest of the world. It was the second leading cause of death for 10 – 34-year-olds in the United States in 2014. The number of people attempting suicide each year is staggering. U.S. emergency departments treat approximately 500,000 people a year for self-inflicted wounds. Globally, more than 800,000 people die from suicide every year.

Has social media desensitized us so much to the issues of suicide, mental illness, and rape that we laugh and condemn people dealing with these issues or for not reaching out for help like we assume we would do in a similar situation? Would Kehlani have had to succeed at her suicide attempt for it to be widely taken serious? Unfortunately, what happened to Kehlani is not out of the ordinary. Mocking those who have attempted suicide, are dealing with depression, or are rape victims is not just limited to celebrities or adults. Audrey Pott, a 15-year-old high school student committed suicide in 2012 after photos of her sexual assault were circulated and ridiculed on social media. In 2014, the photos of an unconscious 16-year-old that were taken after she was allegedly drugged and raped at a party with fellow high school students went viral. The Internet used the hashtag #jadapose to mock the unconscious body of the teen, who has since been asked to be identified as Jada.

Has our everyday activity on social media desensitized us to serious and dangerous issues? Things that are posted on social media do not automatically receive a dismissal of its serious issues just because of the channel in which it’s being discussed. Times have changed, and with it has also come a change in how we choose to communicate and express ourselves. It’s time to accept it.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-1800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use the Lifeline Crisis Chat to talk with someone online. Both are available 24/7.

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