“I could let my razors win tonight”: how self-harm is invading Twitter

“I could let my razors win tonight”: how self-harm is invading Twitter

Hashtags related to self-harm have increased by about 500 percent since October. The most exposed are teenagers.

“I could let my razors win tonight,” wrote a user on Twitter earlier this month. He receives 1,500 likes, 20 comments and 25 retweets. This is where new research from the Network Contagion Research Institute and Rutgers University started. The study has seen an alarming increase in posts reporting theself-harm. Photos showing how to cut oneself, tweets describing the density of blood and the hashtag #shtwt “, short for” Twitter self-harm, “which marks an increase of about 500 percent since the beginning of October.

Just type #beanstwt, (the term refers to the extremely deep cut), to enter a macabre gallery made of cuts, scars, blood flowing under slow motion effect. Some people write, “I’m happy I finally got a deep cut”, or “Do you see how fast it’s healing in 3 days? It makes me want to do it again ”. All this material escapes the Twitter censorship.

According to the report, tweets are getting unusually high engagement, and self-harming accounts are garnering new followers. Data in hand: the number of users with #shtwt has doubled since October 2021, the monthly mentions of “shtwt” have increased 3,880 tweets in October 2021 to nearly 30,000 in July 2022, according to the report. The term “beanstwt” has grown, in October it was mentioned in less than 1,000 tweets, in August it reached 4,500. Twitter becomes a mirror in which to project one’s discomfort and contaminate the most fragile users. “When you glorify cutting and whipping, and other forms of self-harm, you probably get a validating effect. I believe the risk is encouraging these practices,” said Lee Jussim, a psychology professor at Rutgers University who helped write the report.

Because yesterday WhatsApp stopped working

Content posted by users is infringing the rules of Twitter against the glorification of suicide and self-harm, at the same time talking about oneself is a right of those who want to share personal stories. Twitter spokesperson Lauren Alexander expressed herself on the subject “I take self-harming content very seriously and we will work to build a safer Internet. We are continuing to review our policies in conversations with outside experts to find a balance between giving a voice to the people who are struggling and removing the content that exploits those struggles ”. According to research, social media’s tendency to encourage connections between users with similar interests can become a problem. In fact, it becomes more difficult to identify problematic groups, such as those related to self-harm.

To escape the controls and censorship, users have built a real vocabulary. Acronyms, coded languages, keywords. For example “cat scratch” is a way to describe the most superficial cuts, the deeper wounds are instead called “beans”. The “raspberry filling” is blood, while “moots” refers to the “mutual commitment to self-harm”. A language that not only finds creative methods for bypass Twitter bans but it unites. According to the researchers, common jargon fosters a sense of community, a way to share distress and encourage each other. Users also often challenge themselves to increase the depth and severity of self-inflicted wounds. Not only that, the 5 Rights Foundation, a child advocacy group, has presented research to regulators in Britain showing how users also share techniques and advice on how to cut themselves and which razors to use.

The profile of users who practice or write about self-harm is also increasing the state of concern. “It’s likely that 13, 14, 15-year-olds are posting these things on Twitter, looking for affirmation and meeting people like them,” Jussim said. “But it is possible and even probable that some of these people are predators who try to encourage these young adolescents to do more ”. Experts have highlighted how young people are particularly vulnerable to self-harming content on Twitter. And the data already tells a story of virtual contamination.

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