From: Kate Distin (email@example.com)
Date: Sat 15 Apr 2006 - 07:26:52 GMT
Scott Chase wrote:
> Here's a interesting article about research on Goth subculture that
> found a relationship between this group and things like self-harm and
> suicide attempts:
> It seems suggested that it's not so much a case of the subcultre
> causing anti-self behavior but perhaps those predisposed to a negative
> outlook to gravitate towards Gothic things.
> But if given a case of someone standing in front of you with
> piercings, black hair, powdery white face makeup and a The Cure,
> Bauhaus or NIN t-shirt, can you assume they are more likely disposed
> to suicidal ideation or other self-destructive behavior (cutting etc)?
> The whole Goth thing could be looked upon as a memeplex (or mindset),
> but how many characteristics need to be possessed (or possess the
> individual if you prefer a meme view) before they cross the threshold
> into Goth. I like The Cure and NIN, but don't have dyed hair or black
> fingernails or a love of vampire fiction, so maybe I'm not Goth.
> Joseph Dominick's media studies text _The Dynamics of Mass
> Communication (5th ed.)_ talks about a "heavy metal subculture" (p.
> 570). This text was published in 1996, so the 80's-90's heavy metal
> thing was still fresh in pop culture. Research is discussed showing
> some association between suicide and heavy metal as indexed by
> subscription to a publication called *Metal Edge*. It didn't seem that
> the researchers actually looked at individual subscribers *per se* but
> at subscription rates in various states versus suicide rates in those
> states. Seems a little too subtle for me, but maybe there's something
> there. It wasn't that the magazine caused the behavior, but that it
> served as an index of heavy metal subcultural identification. Those
> into metal might be more likely to subscribe to this magazine.
> But do dark lyrics cause suicide, do kids with an already dark outlook
> respond more to dark lyrics, or are kids with a predisposition to
> self-negating or damaging behavior more readily drawn into so-called
> Gothic or heavy metal subcultures?
> Is this much ado about nothing?
The Samaritans advise that asking people whether they are suicidal does
not increase their chances of killing themselves. But conversely when
people spontaneously talk about their suicidal intentions they more
often than not are really thinking about suicide - people bereaved by
suicide will frequently say that this is something the person had talked
about but everyone just thought it was attention-seeking behaviour.
My experience is that people become suicidal specifically when they lose
hope - hope that things can ever change. So when you ask them whether
they feel suicidal they say 'yes', but more often than not when you ask
them whether they want to die they say 'no' - it's just that they want
to stop living *like this* and they can't see another way out. (This is
why asking them about it and allowing them to talk about it and do a
reality check is so important.)
This would imply that, as you say, there's a circular thing here, with
kids who already have a dark outlook being drawn towards these
lyrics/that culture, which in turn reinforces their dark outlook - in
two ways, maybe: reinforcing their belief that there's no hope to be
had, and also at some level presenting suicide/self-harm as ok options.
If cool famous people do them, why not me? To this extent I do think
suicide is memetic. If it were possible to imagine a person who had
never heard about the idea of suicide, it is also possible I think to
imagine that person thinking for himself of death as a way out of an
intolerable situation. But equally the shock that greets a suicide
ensures that the news (the meme) travels fast. The fact is that most
people do know what suicide is.
But here again the information vs. effects distinction is key. Most
people who acquire the suicide meme never act on it. Alter the context
for that meme, though, and its effects can be exerted. E.g. if we hear
someone talking about it then we can assume that the meme is gaining a
favourable context in their minds - its effects are on the verge of
being realized. Conversely, a reality check about the other options
available to them might alter the context to render the meme powerless
again. So in the case of goth culture it may be that the world in
which these (already dark-outlooked?) kids immerse themselves is one
that gives the suicide meme a favourable context, in which its
phenotypic results can be seen.
This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
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