A 16-year-old girl in Malaysia took her own life after sharing a poll on her Instagram account asking followers whether she should choose life or death, upon which 69 percent of respondents voted that she should die.
When a majority of responders clicked on the “death” option, the young girl jumped to her death, claims Padawan district police chief Aidil Bolhassan.
“As many as 69 percent of the teenager’s Instagram friends had supported the decision for her to kill herself via a voting poll which was uploaded at around 3pm yesterday.”
The post came shortly after she posted a status update on Facebook that read “WANNA QUIT FUCKING LIFE I’M TIRED”—a not uncommon sentiment shared by teens on the social media platform that appears tragically ominous in retrospect.
The police chief noted that no foul play was suspected from criminal elements, adding:
“The teenager was believed to have felt stressed when her stepfather married a Vietnamese woman and seldom returned to their home.”
Lawyer Ramkarpal Singh, a lawyer and parliamentarian in the northwestern state of Penang, argued that those who voted “D” should be held to account for her suicide:
“Would the girl still be alive today if the majority of netizens on her Instagram account discouraged her from taking her own life? Would she have heeded the advice of netizens to seek professional help had they done so?
Did the encouragement of those netizens actually influence her decision to take her own life? Since attempted suicide is an offence in this country, it follows that abetting one to attempt suicide may be, too.”
The incident is not the first time that Instagram has been the unfortunate venue of such tragedies. In 2017, 14-year-old British teenager Molly Russell took her own life after allegedly viewing images of self-harm and suicide on the app.
Instagram’s parent company Facebook has also been implicated in several studies on the corrosive effects on users’ mental health, life satisfaction, sense of well-being and all-around self-esteem.
“Exposure to the carefully curated images from others’ lives leads to negative self-comparison, and the sheer quantity of social media interaction may detract from more meaningful real-life experiences,” a 2017 report from Harvard Business Review said.
The negative publicity surrounding the negative effects on users’ mental health forced Facebook to roll out various programs meant to detect potentially suicidal intent in order to suggest resources to users or even alert local authorities.
Instagram APAC (Asia-Pacific) head of communications Ching Yee Wong said:
“Our thoughts and prayers are with this young woman’s family.
We have a deep responsibility to make sure people using Instagram feel safe and supported. As part of our own efforts, we urge everyone to use our reporting tools and to contact emergency services if they see any behaviour that puts people’s safety at risk.”
Malaysian Minister of Youth and Sports Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said that the tragedy should spark a discussion of mental health on a national level. Rahman said:
“I am genuinely worried about the state of our youth’s mental health. It’s a national issue which must be taken seriously.”