|Blue Whale Challenge: Myth vs Reality. Pic Source: Getty Images|
Odisha has also caught up with the latest thing in the market, the Blue Whale Challenge or let us translate it loosely to ‘Nila Timi Baaji’. And caught up in a big way. The police, the newscasters, the reporters, the administration have shown out-of-the-world seriousness to this internet game and the risk it poses especially to teenagers, who get addicted and kill themselves at the end of playing the game. But amidst the hullabaloo they are all missing the major point – that there is, in all probability, no online game called Blue Whale Challenge.
But this ruckus, fanned by media surviving on sensationalism, fed by authorities not trying to go to the depth of a matter, has many important lessons. Let me delineate four of them.
Firstly, shoddy reporting has been the mainstay in this Blue Whale Challenge story. All the suicide stories, not just limited to Odisha, have not gone into the depth of the matter. Claims by parents and often the clueless police about the alleged game behind the suicide have been given prominence. While subsequently such claims have fallen apart, the widespread panic it has created cannot be undone. In an article Pranesh Prakash of CIS has cited many such examples. In an era when journalism is criticized by the common man, such poor standard does not help the cause.
Secondly, the way police has gone about this issue is uncalled for. The newly appointed DGP, R P Sharma seems to have taken this Blue Whale Challenge and its threats seriously. He has expressed his deep concern about it. Even Odisha DGP K B Singh has ordered for removal of it from social media, though I wonder how they plan to do it. It is the responsibility of police to not fan ridiculous claims and that is exactly what has happened in Odisha. But at one point they can’t be blamed for such incompetence, as such things are bound to happen at the face of the force lacking technical expertise in the matter and also known for unscientific methods of investigation.
Thirdly, this issue is a testimonial of how radically networked societies react to fake news. And such fake news that involves serious and utterly disturbing matters like suicide. It is likely that you the reader would have received Whatsapp forwards telling you not to click anything with such and such in the link for then Blue Whale Challenge will be loaded and you will get addicted to it. I mean, seriously? Do people even think what they forward? No. Panic brings about strange behaviour in people and this is an example of such. Controlling this menace, which is making people dumb, needs concerted effort.
Lastly, and most importantly, this incident is causing light to be thrown at an issue that is taking away from where the spotlight should be – suicides among teenagers. 62,960 people in the age group of 10-24 committed suicide in 2013. And no blue or red whale caused it. These deeply worrying, utterly disturbing figures show what psychological issues exist in India. Are parents, schools, workplace aware of this, and if so are they doing anything about it? Do we have a conducive environment for normal and healthy growth of an individual? Does formal education, society, general ecosystem have mechanisms to help an individual under stress cope? Odia and largely the Indian society should ask these questions rather than indulging in senseless sensationalism.