Is social media fueling teen suicide?

Credit: Victor Kerlow

Parents blame stress for the suicides of two 17-year-old girls in Plano, Texas. Two boys at New York City’s Fordham Prep jumped in front of trains a few weeks apart. The youth suicide rate has been rising since 2007, reports the Centers for Disease Control.

Social media may be fueling teen suicide by encouraging young people to become “disconnected from the reality of their own existences,” writes Dr. Keith Ablow.

Facebook, Twitter, Tinder and the like have made them think of themselves as mini-reality-TV versions of themselves. Too many of them see their lives as a series of flickering photos or quick videos. They need constant doses of admiration and constant confirmation of their tenuous existence, which come in the form of Facebook “likes” and Twitter “retweets.”

Heroin use is spreading, writes Ablow. “Heroin is just the powdered equivalent of text messaging, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and the rest of the technology drugs Americans— especially American teen— are mainlining every single day.”

Young people are “increasingly fascinated with dramas about vampires and zombies,” he adds. “They know something about the walking dead.”

The kids are all zombies

Cooties “starts as an earnest-young-teacher movie,” till the kids eat very bad chicken nuggets for lunch and turn into hungry, homicidal zombies, notes an A.V. Club review.

“There’s something guiltily, creepily transgressive and wickedly entertaining” about seeing teachers kill their monstrous students.

It’s a “horror comedy.”

Some Kind of Hate — a supernatural slasher movie ostensibly about bullying — is some kind of mess, says the LA Times.

A former student bullied into suicide returns from the grave to kill . . . just about everyone.

Zombies on campus

Zombie Studies are gaining ground on college campuses, reports the Wall Street Journal. Classes exploiting the walking dead seem to be unstoppable.

The last five years have seen 20 new scholarly books with “zombie” in the title or topic category. Lyle Bishop, chair of Southern Utah University’s English department, turned his PhD dissertation into American Zombie Gothic: The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of the Walking Dead in Popular Culture.

At California State University, East Bay, Philosophy Professor Christopher Moreman co-edited a two-volume collection of essays on The Humanity of the Walking Dead and Cross-Cultural Appropriations of the monsters. He teaches “Philosophy 3432: Religion, Monsters and Horror.”

Many U.S. college graduates can’t read or write well, says Michael Poliakoff, policy director for the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. “What have we given up in order to dabble in the undead?”

Or, to put it another way, for this you went to college?


(Illustrations by Dale Stephanos)

2013 was the Year of the Zombies , writes Dave Barry in his annual review.

Students ask policy makers to take exit exam

Today is Take the Test Day in Rhode Island. The Providence Student Union (PSU) has invited community leaders and policy makers to take a condensed version of the state graduation exam.

Providence students haven’t received the “support, resources and improved teaching” necessary to reach high standards, argues PSU member and “part-time zombie” Cauldierre McKay in a blog post.

For the state to punish so many individual students for its own systemic failure to deliver a high-quality education is an injustice on a massive scale.

. . . A comprehensive 2011 study by the National Research Council concluded that, “high school exit exam programs, as currently implemented in the United States, decrease the rate of high school graduation without increasing achievement.” . . .  this policy will do nothing to improve our education while denying many students a diploma—the diploma they need to make it through life.

Forty percent of Rhode Island’s 11th graders — 60 percent in Providence — are in danger of failing the exam and not graduating. That would turn young people into hopeless, jobless, lifeless “zombies,” argues PSU.

Most of the 35 test-takers thought they “tanked the test,” reports the Providence Journal.  Some complained of trick questions on the math exam.

“I was good at math,” said state Rep. Larry Valencia, D-Richmond. “I took trig, statistics, pre-calculus. I have a degree in chemistry. I think the test is very unfair. It doesn’t represent what the average high school student should know.”

Carla Shalaby, director of Elementary Education at Wellesley College, struggles with some of the questions on the math exam, which she took at the Knight Memorial Library in Providence.

Photo: Bob Breidenbach/The Providence Journal