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Duende46: Fact

Duende46: Fact

In 2013, British teenager Hannah Smith, aged only 14, committed suicide after being cyber-bullied. She'd received messages on the social media site Ask.fm including "drink bleach" and "die".

The inquiry into her death found that 98% of the messages came from the same IP address as her own computer.

Hannah isn't alone in digital self-harm. A US study, published last month in Child and Adolescent Mental Health, found that those teenagers who engaged in digital self-harm or cyber self-bullying also experienced suicidal thoughts.

A worrying sign is that 14-year-olds were twice as likely as their older peers to post anonymously about themselves online.

There is no definitive reason teenagers engage in such behaviour. It could be a feature of depression, low-self esteem or, as the research suggests, they are "testing" the loyalty of their friends.

Humans are addicted to finding meaning where it may not exist. We probably aren't alone in this. Animals "read" body language to identify the motivation of others. These zebras recognise the lioness isn't a direct threat, for now.  


In 1994, psychologists Fritz Heider and Marianne Simmel conducted a simple but elegant experiment. They created a short animated film and asked respondents to describe what they saw.

Instead of seeing geometric figures randomly moving around the screen, we create a story of finding meaning where no meaning exists. The hero of this story is the small triangle, and the villain is the large triangle. There is a satisfactory end to this story when the couple escape and the antagonist throws a tantrum and destroys the rectangle.

The stories we tell ourselves find meaning based on the limited data points we have. My inbox is overflowing must mean I am lazy. I can't focus on one task at a time, equals I don't have the motivation to succeed.

For me, at least, this isn't digital self-harm, but it is related. Instead of posting "anonymous" comments on social media (I don't have social media), I "post" these comments internally. I am seeking meaning where meaning shouldn't exist.

Last edition I spoke about being a late bloomer. This is me trying to reframe the story. Who gives a fuck if I am not as successful as [fill in the blank]. I am me. End of fucking story.

The answer, again, for me, is to celebrate my successes. I have been awarded prizes for my fiction writing. F.A.C.T. This is what I need to remind myself. I need to turn off the comments before the "yeah, buts" begin.

I have written 46 editions of this weekly email. F.A.C.T. I have written 180 daily writing challenges. F.A.C.T.

And as long as I still crave to write, that is all the meaning I need to find.

Thank you for giving my writing a home in your inbox.

Until next week,