Journal of Modern Science (Jul 2023)

"Death Groups" – Suicidal Communities in the Virtual Space as a Social Media Phenomenon (Based on the Analysis of Internet Discourse)

  • Iryna Surina

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 51, no. 2
pp. 255 – 287


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Objectives This article concerns the phenomenon of "death groups" – suicidal communities – as a social media phenomenon. It specifies the stages of their development, the characteristics of these groups –– with particular emphasis on the "Blue Whale" game. It is indicated that one of the main roles in committing suicidal acts among young people is played by the virtual network in which these groups are organized, managed and coordinated. Material and methods The purpose of the article is to present "death groups" as destructive communities formed in virtual space and inspired by computer games. The research method used is a qualitative analysis of the discourse on death groups in the Eastern European segment of the Internet – with a particular focus on the discourse in the Polish, Ukrainian and Russian segments. Results Based on a qualitative analysis of Internet discourse in the Eastern European segment of the Internet, it is highlighted that "death groups" are a social network phenomenon contributing to the formation of suicidal behavior of children and adolescents trying to escape from problems in reality. Death groups were characterized as a network game and as a suicidal subculture containing techniques for manipulating human behavior. Conclusions It was shown that playing the theme of committing suicide, inducing another person to commit a suicidal act moves from the virtual world to the real world – where it can be realized. Another finding was the dependence of the popularization of these groups on moral panic. The article emphasizes that "death groups" in the online space and the mechanisms they use are secondary causes of suicidal behavior of adolescents and young people - while the primary causes remain traditional.