People seem to be getting really worked up about a so-called “Blue Whale Challenge” social media game. And understandably so – it’s a game where vulnerable children are targeted and given progressive challenge, culminating in something that will kill them.
I saw this first a couple of months ago, and each time it turns up the lurid details have been embellished further. It sounds too macabre to be true. And it’s not.
About a year ago someone in Russia published an on-line article hoping to explain the high number of teenage suicides in the country, and blaming it on the Internet. Apparently a statistically significant number of teenagers belonging to one particular on-line group had died; the on-line group must therefore be to blame.
Wrong! If you have an on-line group of depressed teenagers then you are going to have a higher proportion of suicides amongst them. The writers have confused cause and effect.
However, facts never got in the way of a good lurid story and this one seems to have bounced around Russia for most of 2016, where it morphed into an evil on-line challenge game. It then jumped the language gap to English in winter 2017.
The story spreads as a cautionary tale, with the suggestion that you should pass it on to everyone you know so they can check their kids for early signs they are being targeted (specifically, cutting a picture of a whale in to their arm). In other words, a classic email urban legend. It’s only a matter of time before the neighbourhood watch people add it to their newsletters.
The Daily Mail has reported this as fact, so I must be wrong and it must be true. Or perhaps I’m right and they have nothing to back their carefully worded account. Wouldn’t be the first time…