The social media phenomenon surrounding the so-called “Blue Whale” suicide game plays into all of our fears as human beings: it’s a game that encourages people — particularly vulnerable teenagers — to kill themselves. And there are few things that will cripple a parent with fear more than the thought of their child being irreparably harmed, especially if the child is vulnerable.
However, a new report suggests that the “Blue Whale” game not only stems from an urban legend but is also all a hoax.
According to a press release from the Center for Inquiry, Benjamin Radford, Skeptical Inquirer deputy editor and author of books such as Bad Clowns and Mysterious New Mexico, thinks that the Blue Whale suicide game is all a hoax. And, the reason it was perpetuated for so long and spread so wide is because of so-called “scarelore” and the fact that it appeals to the most basic of human instincts, as all good urban legends are wont to do.
“The question is not, ‘Is this scary event possible?’ because of course it is—anything is possible. Rumors and legends often involve things and events that people can believe might be real, might be a genuine threat to the health or safety of themselves or their loved ones. All urban legends have an element of superficial credibility about them; that’s why they are widely shared and warned about.”
Indeed, no less of an authority than Snopes calls shenanigans on the so-called “Blue Whale game.”
The trusted debunker of urban legends, Internet myths, and “fake news” reports that, while there are some sick games out there that encourage the user to commit suicide, there’s some question as to whether there’s a direct correlation between the uptick in teen suicides and the increased playing of the game.
Pointing to various news sources of questionable repute, Snopes suggests that the origins of the upticks of teen suicides in Russia have nothing to do with a game, but with a Russian Internet celebrity named Rina Palenkova, who allegedly took her own life shortly after posting a photograph of herself on VK.com. Her death made her a Messiah figure of sorts in pro-suicide online groups, much like anorexic supermodels become Messiah figures in pro-anorexia (“ana”) online groups.
Snopes also suggests that the origins of the “blue whale game” come from one of the online pro-suicide groups called Sea of Whales, who were “blue” (a synonym for “upset” or “sad”) that such a prominent figure took her own life.
That hasn’t stopped screaming headlines from such outlets as the New York Post, who claim that a postman named Ilya Sidorov created the Blue Whale game and had more than 30 girls “under his spell.”
“A police spokeswoman said mobile phones, a tablet computer and several SIM cards have been seized as evidence. “The suspect clarified that he is the administrator of a so-called suicide group that had 32 members, all of them underage,” the spokeswoman said. “He assigned them tasks aimed at injuring themselves in order to incite suicide.”
Radford says that journalists need to play their part in the dispelling of the “blue whale game” rumors by treating such reports with a healthy dose of skepticism.
“There is of course a possibility that some people (kids or adults) will take the stories seriously and try to participate in, or even create, such a game, even if it doesn’t really exist. Journalists and others in the news media can help deter such copycats by treating the topic skeptically. Journalists and police should also be careful not to confuse or attribute some genuine, unrelated suicides to the Blue Whale Game, as the Russian news source mentioned earlier apparently did. In the wake of suicides, which are sadly not uncommon among young people for a wide variety of reasons, many people will look for answers or scapegoats, including rock music, violent video games, and so on. Journalists can also help by seeking out skeptics, psychologists, and experts in folklore to help put the claims into context.”
Do you think the Blue Whale game is a hoax, or do you think that the Blue Whale game is real? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
[Featured Image by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]