Internet suicide: Communities of affirmation and the lethality of communication
As a tool of instant information dissemination and social networking, the Internet has made possible the formation and affirmation of public identities based on personality traits that are usually characterized by clinicians as pathological. The wide variety of online communities of affirmation reveals new conditions for permissiveness and inclusiveness in expressions of these socially marginal and clinically pathologized identities. Much the same kind of discourse common to these online communities is evident in some suicide forums. Web sites with suicide as their central raison d’être, taken together, encompass a wide range of ideas and commitments, including many that provide collective affirmation outside of (and often with hostility toward) professional intervention. The paradox of a potentially life-affirming effect of such forums runs counter to a stark dualism between online therapy versus “prochoice” forums and, by extension, to simple models of the influence of ideas on the lethality of suicide. Different forums either intensify or mitigate self-destructive tendencies in ways that are significant for understanding the place of communication in the occurrence of suicide and for therapeutic practice.