Social Network Habituation And Why We Need To Listen; It Could Save A Life

February 25, 2013

In an earlier post ( I spoke about becoming a digital “White Hatter” and how important it is for all of us who use social media to act as “gatekeepers” or “digital first responders” when we see a friend, student, or even a stranger who is digitally reaching out for help. Very recently, a blog posting was brought to my attention, which can be located here:

Like my “White Hatter” article, this posting speaks to the issue of how we need to listen, believe and then reach out to those young people on-line who are digitally crying out for help. Given that today’s youth are the first generation to be fully digitally integrated, is it any wonder that they are now using digital media, in all its forms, to message their need for help? Like Commissioner Gordon’s use of the “Bat Signal” as a techno tool for Gotham City to call Batman for help, a youth’s tweet, text or other social media message, much like the Bat Signal, could also be a call for help. A youth’s digital cry for help is their way of hoping that someone out there in the cyber world will pay attention, listen, and in some cases assist them in getting the help that they are seeking online, because doing so offline is seen to be too difficult.

I have shared my message of internet and social media safety to over 70,000 students in the province of British Columbia, and over 20 of these students, after hearing me speak, “digitally” reached out to me for help in their own unique way. Given my background, I was able hear their cry and in each and every case, and often working with their school, I was able to get them the help that they needed. Some were abusing drugs or alcohol, some were cutting and some were contemplating suicide because they were being targeted for digital peer aggression (cyberbullying) or sexting gone wrong issues. What is important to understand is they all digitally reached out for help. Some of these calls for help were directly made to me, some I observed online in social networks, and some were directed to me by students (digital first responders) who identified a friend in need of help and then connected with me looking for guidance.

Because our youth are now digitally integrated, it is important for the reader of this posting to understand that it is becoming more common that youth will digitally reach out for help online, sometimes directly but often indirectly, rather than doing so face-to-face offline.

Sometimes we need to sift through what I like to call “social network habituations” that many of us fall victim to, and really listen to the underlying meaning of a tweet, text, or other form of social media notification that comes across our screen no matter the device.

As Gunnar Simonsen stated in his blog posting:

“Do I ever take time to seek to read beyond the tweet? Do I look for signs in others by way of their tweet feed that might scream… “Somebody please listen!!??”

Become a “White Hatter.” LISTEN and ACT – by doing so you could be saving a life.

Digital Food For Thought

Darren Laur

AKA #thewhitehatter

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