Facebook Is Actually Working To Prevent Suicide, Social Media Isn't Just For Likes And Comments

Facebook Is Actually Working To Prevent Suicide, Social Media Isn't Just For Likes And Comments

Artificial intelligence is saving lives while we scroll.
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As individuals grow more and more dependent on social media as a form of self-expression and catharsis, new concerns continue to arise surrounding the kind of material people are putting online. One area of growing concern is content related to mental health crises.

As of 2017, Facebook has implemented a new system that automatically identifies and flags posts that express suicidal thoughts. Once posts are flagged, content reviewers are alerted and analyze the posts in question.

This is a step up from the system Facebook previously had in place: users could report alarming content to Facebook employees who would evaluate it and decide whether a person should be offered support from a suicide prevention hotline or, in extreme cases, have Facebook's law enforcement response team intervene.

Facebook's new system is pioneering the many ways artificial intelligence can be used to save lives online. Posts that express suicidal ideation are automatically flagged and sent to the company's review board.

There are currently over 7,500 staff members reviewing cases like these. The company educates its staff by reaching out to experts in the field of suicide prevention like Dan Reidenberg, executive director of SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education,) who started out by distributing a list of phrases commonly used by individuals at risk of suicide.

The technology itself is widely impressive. In one example, the company details how posts like "If I hear this song one more time, I'm going to kill myself," won't be flagged, but posts that involve the subtleties of suicidal thought will be.

In the month of November alone, over 100 wellness checks were administered by first responders based on the new system. As of 2018, Facebook says that the revamped program is flagging 20 times more cases of suicidal thought than before, with twice as many individuals receiving suicide prevention support materials through the platform.

As the reach of social media gets wider and wider, there are growing opportunities for both harm and help available to the masses that utilize these platforms on a daily basis. With numbers of lives in the hundreds being saved by the quick detection of artificial intelligence, it's safe to say that smart technology paired with a finger on the pulse of a growing global health crisis has potential we all deserve to see.

Cover Image Credit: Every Pixel

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I Went To "The Bachelor" Auditions

And here's why you won’t be seeing me on TV.
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It’s finally time to admit my guilty pleasure: I have always been a huge fan of The Bachelor.

I can readily admit that I’ve been a part of Bachelor fantasy leagues, watch parties, solo watching — you name it, I’ve gone the whole nine yards. While I will admit that the show can be incredibly trashy at times, something about it makes me want to watch it that much more. So when I found out that The Bachelor was holding auditions in Houston, I had to investigate.

While I never had the intention of actually auditioning, there was no way I would miss an opportunity to spend some time people watching and check out the filming location of one of my favorite TV shows.

The casting location of The Bachelor, The Downtown Aquarium in Houston, was less than two blocks away from my office. I assumed that I would easily be able to spot the audition line, secretly hoping that the endless line of people would beg the question: what fish could draw THAT big of a crowd?

As I trekked around the tanks full of aquatic creatures in my bright pink dress and heels (feeling somewhat silly for being in such nice clothes in an aquarium and being really proud of myself for somewhat looking the part), I realized that these auditions would be a lot harder to find than I thought.

Finally, I followed the scent of hairspray leading me up the elevator to the third floor of the aquarium.

The doors slid open. I found myself at the end of a large line of 20-something-year-old men and women and I could feel all eyes on me, their next competitor. I watched as one woman pulled out her travel sized hair curler, someone practiced answering interview questions with a companion, and a man (who was definitely a little too old to be the next bachelor) trying out his own pick-up lines on some of the women standing next to him.

I walked to the end of the line (trying to maintain my nonchalant attitude — I don’t want to find love on a TV show). As I looked around, I realized that one woman had not taken her eyes off of me. She batted her fake eyelashes and looked at her friend, mumbling something about the *grumble mumble* “girl in the pink dress.”

I felt a wave of insecurity as I looked down at my body, immediately beginning to recognize the minor flaws in my appearance.

The string hanging off my dress, the bruise on my ankle, the smudge of mascara I was sure I had on the left corner of my eye. I could feel myself begin to sweat. These women were all so gorgeous. Everyone’s hair was perfectly in place, their eyeliner was done flawlessly, and most of them looked like they had just walked off the runway. Obviously, I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I walked over to the couches and sat down. For someone who for the most part spent most of the two hours each Monday night mocking the cast, I was shocked by how much pressure and tension I felt in the room.

A cop, stationed outside the audition room, looked over at me. After a brief explanation that I was just there to watch, he smiled and offered me a tour around the audition space. I watched the lines of beautiful people walk in and out of the space, realizing that each and every one of these contestants to-be was fixated on their own flaws rather than actually worrying about “love.”

Being with all these people, I can see why it’s so easy to get sucked into the fantasy. Reality TV sells because it’s different than real life. And really, what girl wouldn’t like a rose?

Why was I so intimidated by these people? Reality TV is actually the biggest oxymoron. In real life, one person doesn’t get to call all the shots. Every night isn’t going to be in a helicopter looking over the south of France. A real relationship depends on more than the first impression.

The best part of being in a relationship is the reality. The best part about yourself isn’t your high heels. It’s not the perfect dress or the great pick-up lines. It’s being with the person that you can be real with. While I will always be a fan of The Bachelor franchise, this was a nice dose of reality. I think I’ll stick to my cheap sushi dates and getting caught in the rain.

But for anyone who wants to be on The Bachelor, let me just tell you: Your mom was right. There really are a lot of fish in the sea. Or at least at the aquarium.

Cover Image Credit: The Cut

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My Story As A Recovering Self-Harmer

Content warning: Self-harm.

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Since high school, I have physically and knowing self-harmed as a way to distract myself. It has been almost 7 years and right now I have only been a few months clean. In the past 7 years, I have relapsed more than a couple of times. I have gone months at a time and found myself at a breaking point.

I know it's nobody's business and it might be oversharing but this is meant for primary readers. For those who are going through recovery or just began today. If secondary or tertiary readers stumble upon this then I hope it helps you understand from the other side.

I am still recovering. The thing about addiction is that you can never fully be "cured." You can be clean for years and still relapse. The key is to decide to try again.

I call it an addiction because it was. I grabbed the razor before I could even understand why I was numb. I did it multiple times a day and sometimes I didn't need an actual reason.

It was a sort of ripple effect. I couldn't stop the ripples into turning into the next one and instead, I just watched as they spread. One second I was OK and the next I locked the door.

Some people smoke and some people drink. I hate the smell of smoke and can't stand the taste of alcohol but I often wish I could use those as a distraction for my distraction. I do many things now to distract myself from getting too close to another relapse. I let out a scream to alarm my family or I start running. The first few seconds of the attempt are the hardest. It's an internal pain that makes you itch inside out.

After a few minutes have passed I can usually begin to calm myself. I sit down and remind myself that everything is OK. It isn't always easy so calling a friend is always an option.

Sometimes I end up crying in order to release all the built-up emotions. When minutes have passed and I am still filled with tears I force myself to grab something to eat. I have realized that I can't cry and eat at the same time. I grab anything. Sometimes my siblings make me something instead.

I am seeking professional help for those who are wondering. I am almost half a year clean and I have two caring and supportive friends and a family who does their best to understand and support me.

Recovery is not easy when it comes to mental illness because the results aren't always visible like a broken bone. Any amount of self felt recovery is amazing. It's a step towards a better you. Talking to people and seeking professional help are all steps.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

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