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WheatNOil @WheatNOil
, 36 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
What happened to Comtois is disturbingly common and it hits a little close to home (or work) for me. Good on him for taking a stand (or at least his representatives) but it may not have turned out that way.

Warning: Meandering thread of indeterminate length ahead
I work in Saskatchewan. If you live there and ask yourself, “did a teen try to end his/her life today?”, the answer is almost certainly yes.

In Alberta, with a larger population, the answer is absolutely yes.
Social media bullying is not the sole cause of this, of course. Teens have been trying to end their lives well before the internet.

It is, however, in my experience, a pretty common immediate reason for the attempt.
What I mean is, a bunch of stuff is going on and the online attacks are the last inciting event. It’s not the sole reason, but it’s a major contributing factor.
A few people, in the replies to the above tweet, ask why do “words on a screen” bother a kid so much or that this particular kid has so much going for him it shouldn’t bug him, or that kids need to be more resilient.

On that, a couple points...
One, I’ve seen how grown adults react to mild provocation on Twitter. Many, many grown adults. Sometimes intense sadness, often sheer anger. Before adults start lecturing teens on how to shrug this stuff off, we should get our own house in order.
Two, no generation in history has been as connected at a such young age as teens today. When I was a teen, we had ICQ. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, these things only exploded in the last decade.

We have no idea how kids should handle this. No human generation ever has
That’s not to say this generation of teens has it tougher than any other. What it means is no generation has dealt with this unique stressor. Ever. Here’s why it’s particularly problematic for teens...
One of teens’ primary developmental roles is identity formation. Teens start to separate from their parents and look to their social milieu to figure out who they are as individuals. They figure out what group they fit with. Their social standing. Their identity.
So if one of Identity’s primary drivers is the teen’s social sphere, social media is basically geared to exactly one of a teen’s primary developmental roles. Constant, immediate feedback. Shaping self, esteem, perspective, everything.
Most of us shaped our identities in a different world, a different way. Social media, for us, impacts at a stage AFTER our teenage identity development. Teens today?
So let’s park that thought and go to bullying. Bullying has been around forever. What’s different now is it’s constancy.

Before, you’d get bullied at school, you’d go home, and the bullies had a hard time getting to you.
I mean, how could a bully contact me as a youth? We had one home line. My dad would answer. Some people even had caller ID. Most people didn’t even know where I lived. If I was on TV, the only way someone could send me a message was via letter mail.
Obviously bullying at home could still happen but realistically, you got some reprieve.

Not now. Now it’s direct to you. 24-7. Every time you look at your phone. Just an unending stream of “kill yourself”, “die you fuckface”, “just shut up and die”. 5000 messages of only that.
(This is not an uncommon inciting event for a suicide attempt. This happens just about every day for teens today, with varying degrees of severity.)
Ok, now the last piece, Comtois is successful. Why can’t be just shrug it off?

And, of course, having a lot of success is somewhat protective. More suicide attempts occur among kids with less supports. This isn’t surprising.

Yet, I’ve had some very successful teens attempt.
Teens that are at the top of their class. Teens highly successful in sports. Teens that have everything going for them. In fact, sometimes they’re the most serious attempts.
See, when you’re a teen and your whole world is something that you’re pretty good at, that becomes a major part of your identity.

So what happens if you mess up in that one thing? The one thing you were always good at? The thing you defined your whole identity around?
You’re a teen. You’re still establishing a deeper, more full identity. Meaning your identity is necessarily fragile. Your whole life has been one thing and if you’re not good at that?

The balloon is popped. And you perceive yourself to have nothing.
Now, if give yourself a moment to reflect, you’ll realize you have a lot more. It’s not the end of the world.

But teens tend to feel emotions strongly. One, because it takes some life experience to realize that “this too shall pass”.
Two, because they are neurobiologically set up to have more emotional reactivity than adults. They don’t prune away all their extra excitatory neurons until their brain is fully developed at around age 25.
Finally, why don’t teens just log off social media? Why look at it? Why even be ON social media.

Well, two things.
Remember, this is their life. This is the world they grew up in. They’ve only lived in a world where THIS is what social interaction is.

It’d be like my parents saying, “well if other kids bug you, just don’t have friends! Go to school and focus on your studies!”
(My parents are East Indian so they actually said this. It was not particularly helpful.)
Two, we don’t actually teach kids how to manage social media very well. We don’t have classes on this. At home, most teens know way more about this stuff than their parents.

Mostly the message is, “Social media is bad.” Great, very helpful.
We learn how to present ourself socially by watching others, by messages from our parents, our culture, our social group. It’s well entrenched in our human history.

We do the same thing online. We just don’t have a rich history & it’s mostly changing every couple years.
Which means teens are particularly attached to social media because it IS how they establish their identity. How they present themselves to the world. It aligns exactly with their developmental stage.
It’s not easy to log off, they’re not well taught how to use it, their identity is particularly susceptible to attack, and while the positive reinforcement can be 24-7, so can the bullying. Attacking the very core of what they’re trying to develop.
When attacked they’re biologically more impulsive, they haven’t had the life experience to know these intense feelings will pass, and a suicide attempt can be done in minutes.

It’s a perfect storm.
And it happens every day.
Back to Comtois, seems he’s all right (though who knows but him) but you don’t know how many suicide attempts you’ve caused by being a dick to someone directly online. Particularly a teen.
You don’t know what other bullshit is going on their life, even if they seem “successful” on the outside. Even if they have supports.

It’s one thing when teens bully each other. But us adults? Holy hell we should know better.
And over a U20 game of hockey? I like Canada winning as much as the next fan, but one day we’re going to kill one of these kids. Like, literally kill them.
Aside from that, know that teens deal with this shit every day. Even ones who aren’t World Junior captains (though they probably don’t have people all over the country telling them to off themselves). Know it leads to suicide attempts every day in this country.
And maybe, if there’s a teen in your life, give them some positive feedback. Tell them they’re okay.

They’re trying. Really.

But mostly don’t be a dick online. That would be super helpful.
End thread. Sorry about the length. I could’ve been more concise had I thought it all through before I started tweeting.
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