The curious case of The Internet vs Mental Illness
“The more you’re in the limelight”
Once again we in this country have heard devastating news of tragedy. Another mass shooting occurred in Oregon yesterday, and immediately the conversation turned towards gun control, speculation, and politics. This article is not about any of that. I am not going to turn what happened to those students yesterday into a political statement or affidavit on how we need more policy. I am neither interested in turning tragedy into agenda, nor am I qualified to pass judgement on either side of the aisle. But let’s step back a moment and react accordingly, shall we? I don’t care what the shooter’s motivations were, it’s obvious that he had some mental instability. Some of the reason why may be in this society that we’ve created with the help of a little thing called “The Internet”.
It is suspected, and is now being investigated, that the Oregon shooter posted on the infamous website 4chan. Now, that’s really hard to determine without computer forensics, as 4chan users are usually anonymous and there are lots of posts that are “threatening” and end up being empty threats. This post in particular stated: “Don’t go to school tomorrow if you are in the northwest.”
In fact ALL of the shooter’s social media is being scrutinized, and tons of information is coming up. From refinery29.com:
“I have noticed that so many people like him are all alone,” the user wrote of Vester Flannagan II, the man who shot the reporters.
“Yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone…Seems the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.”
The Social Hierarchy
Herein lies the problem. Glory. Attention. Name recognition. All things that something called “Beta Males” strive for. They don’t want to be a Beta. They want to be an Alpha. No idea what I’m talking about? Here’s a handy infographic.
The fact that this image exists and contains pictures of males across the internet is very telling. Why? Because the landscape of the internet is perfect for pigeonholing people into a subculture, and never letting go. 4chan is one prime example, as well as other sites like Reddit, Tumblr, any other “chan” site, Imgur, Twitter, etc. Those are just social sites, but even media sites are guilty of this as well, including Gawker Media, Vox, Buzzfeed, and the like.
The Social Hierarchy construct shown in the infographic above comes from the hierarchal structure for males in nature, chiefly for mating reasons. As is the tendency of trolls on the internet (and rival males in general), anyone who doesn’t fit the Alpha Male category gets criticized… heavily. This has been the case for many years, but with the advent of the internet, and the fact that it’s worldwide, now the ability to make fun of someone you’re never going to meet is easier than ever. And it’s reinforced again, and again, and again. In fact, there’s a specific type of occurrence that has been labeled “Beta Male Rage“.
More than just a stereotype
Beta Males have become a trope. It’s just your stereotypical “guy who’s not top dog, but wants to be”. This is very dangerous thinking on our parts. If someone is angry, blaming others for their problems, sites things like terror groups, and has an infatuation (to the point of creepy) with a certain demographic, they may not be just “another Beta”. They may need some serious psychological help.
But instead of help, you get “kill yourself”, and dozens of other hurtful, demeaning comments from internet bullies who really don’t care who you are or if they hurt your feelings. Jon Justice surmises that instead of just killing themselves, people who feel they were dealt an unfair hand are now going out with a blaze of glory. He’s probably not far off the mark judging from the comments of the Oregon shooter about being in the limelight.
The more people talk, the greater the motivation to “show them all” is. That’s why I haven’t used his name, and I won’t. People like him don’t need to observe and emulate his actions. They need people around them to notice that they need medical attention, and the internet and social media is definitely not the source for that.
I wrote an article back in May on gamer culture and psychology, but it links to internet trolls as a whole and goes much deeper than just gaming. While I was writing that article, I had in mind “Gamergate” and the “Quinnspiracy“, which also was afflicted by a war between the steps in the hierarchy. A source of mine wrote to me that some of the “wizards” actually committed suicide due to the events of the Gamergate debacle, though I can’t personally confirm this. Regardless, this is a very good example of internet bullying to the extreme, whether you go with the corruption of information causing unstable people to take their own lives, or death threats sent to people opposed to Gamergate.
In short, we on the internet are not helping. Seeing as how the internet has become an integral part of our society, then society is also failing. And now that trolls and flame wars are the norm, this isn’t something that’s simply going to go away overnight. We need to pay more attention, not only to what people are saying to us face to face, but what people are saying and doing online.