There’s no denying that Facebook has become a staple part of our lives. It’s the second most popular website in the world (after Google), with over 1.65 billion active users. Our newsfeeds subject us to gossip, advertising, headline-news and whole range of commentary from friends and acquaintances. The social network obviously has a profound effect on our psychology, apparently so much that they’ve felt the need to implement a suicide prevention tool.
“…if someone posts something on Facebook that makes you concerned about their well-being, you can reach out to them directly — and you also can report the post to us. We have teams working around the world, 24/7, who review reports that come in. They prioritize the most serious reports like self-injury.”
So if one of your friends posts a status update alluding to depression, self-harm or suicide you can immediately report it to Facebook. From there, you can choose to send that person the phone number for a local suicide prevention hotline (provided by Facebook), or a message of support (Facebook suggests the wording). As stated above, the post will also be assessed by Facebook’s global community operations team, who are on standby 24-hours a day. For those at immediate risk of self-harm or danger, Facebook suggests contacting police.
With so many users and the increasing effect Facebook has on our lives, the service seems an important one for public safety. It may yet prove to save lives.
But some have already raised concerns about Facebook’s privacy record. In 2012, the social network conducted secret psychological testing on nearly 700,000 users. The experiment sought to manipulate users’ newsfeeds with additional content, some negative and some positive, and monitored their reactions. The study was dubbed “scandalous”, “spooky” and “disturbing” by numerous public figures, including lawyers and politicians. Facebook later apologised for it but the network is no less popular.
In both of these cases, it’s clear that Facebook has more control over our lives than we’d probably like to admit. And the social network seems to encroach further into our psyches everyday. Not only can Facebook advertise to us and skew the information we see, now the platform’s developers feel the need to implement safety measures for users – in the form of suicide prevention.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s worth acknowledging and keeping track of. It might worth asking: how much control does Facebook have over your mood, your happiness and the way you see the world?
If you’re having suicidal thoughts or in need of a crisis support hotline, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.