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Social Media to Fight Against the Very First Social Fact: Suicide

Emile Durkheim was one of the godfather of sociology. His work aimed to modelize that suicide rates are a 'social fact', based on diverse data, interviews and comparisons.

One of the main hopes, when it comes to Social Media, is that more networked people can lead to a better world. An empowered critical mass can make the difference. It's specifically true when you look at fundraising, supporting causes or even sharing knowledge.

Fighting suicide thanks to social networks and digital people is now already on its way.

Jenna Woodul already gave us some fresh insights on SMT, focusing on the fact that conversations, therefore words, have never been that important, to define one's identity and feed one's social relationships.

"In fact, in our socially networked world, words count more than ever before. Sometimes for good and sometimes for bad, conversations on social networks drive relationships — and then, in turn, behavior.

A 2008 study by Harvard Medical School and University of California San Diego researchers has actually proven the dynamic exists. As noted in a review of the study by the Washington Post, “many behaviors are swayed by social networks in ways that have not been fully understood…. It may be possible … to harness the power of these networks for many purposes such as encouraging safe sex, getting more people to exercise, or even fighting crime.”"

Social networks like Facebook or MySpace used to avoid negative conversations in their UX. They used to hide what could generate some resentments from third-part stakeholders (like brands, that buy ads...). It's still very rare to see some "I dislike" buttons on mainstreamn networks.

But things have changed, and the same Facebook implemented some months ago a suicide reporting system in the US (not live yet in France...). A great and positive move, which could dismantle what some might call "social media fatigue": adding features that can change daily real life concerns of connected citizens is the bone of contention to keep a network alive and kicking.

Some other tools and projects could be implemented in 2012:

  • connecting online monitoring databases in order to analyze trending topics linked to suicide at a very large scale
  • developing some active response systems, based on these alerts. As in crisis communication, you cannot only focus on pages you own, but think where relevant conversations happen. Government and association could organize new kinds of teams, live-following what's said online, to make sure no one is in danger
  • educating associations and call-centres to these new tools
  • pushing within schools or companies anonymous red "facebook" lines, to an accredited organism



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