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From 13 Reasons Why to Suicide Watch: Reddit Discussions about the Controversial Netflix Series

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The poster presented at the 2018 International Conference on Social Media & Society (Copenhagen, Denmark, July 18-20, 2018).

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From 13 Reasons Why to Suicide Watch: Reddit Discussions about the Controversial Netflix Series

  1. 1. From 13 Reasons Why to Suicide Watch: Reddit Discussions about the Controversial Netflix Series Hua Wang1(hwang23@buffalo.edu), Haoran Chu1, and Anatoliy Gruzd2 There were 108 unique users who posted on both subreddits. Among these overlapped users, the most active user posted more than 200 times on r/suicidewatch. Introduction On March 31, 2017, Netflix premiered an original series called “13 Reasons Why” based on the 2007 young adult novel and New York Times best seller of the same title by Jay Asher. Reddit Online Discussions • Reddit is a semi-anonymous online community allowing in-depth and interactive discussions on a wide range of topics without word limit. • Subreddit r/13ReasonsWhy is an online forum on Reddit designated to the show. • Subreddit r/SuicideWatch is an online forum on Reddit with peer support for people with suicidal thoughts. • We aimed to examine the characteristics of mental health discussions on both subreddits and the connections between the two. Methods • All public posts in 2017 (Jan 1 – Dec 31) on r/13ReasonsWhy and r/SuicideWatch were retrieved using the Reddit Collector app developed by the Social Media Lab at Ryerson University. • Data analysis was completed in MS Excel and SPSS. • Visualizations were generated using Tableau Pro. Preliminary Findings 3891 18409 Threads Replies Response ratio is close to 5 : 1 • A total of 22,300 initial threads and subsequent replies were posted on r/13ReasonsWhy. Discussion • Teen suicide remains a difficult and sensitive topic for public discussions. The controversy surrounding the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why did stimulate heated conversations among the viewers as well as concerning parents and educators. • Featuring mental health resources on popular social media does provide various audience members a platform to connect with others and potentially seek help in a semi- anonymous online environment but this is only a start. • A combination of social network analysis and content analysis (both computer-aided and human coded) is currently underway to examine who said what and when in a more systematic and nuanced manner. • Our research team is conducting several other studies in parallel to better understand the program content, media coverage, as well as audience response on- and off-line. 2459 468 417 117 104 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 Suicide Bullying Gun Sexual assualt Alcohol From 13ReasonsWhy to Suicide Watch 1 2 • r/13ReasonsWhy has a PSA on its front page directing those in need of help to r/SuicideWatch and other resources related to mental health. Responses to 13 Reasons Why • The show immediately received criticism by mainstream media for glamorizing suicide despite the producers’ intention to break the taboo and start a public discourse on teen suicide. • Many people were very vocal with their opinions about the Netflix series on social media such as Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. • This study is part of a larger research project examining the controversy of 13 Reasons Why. r/SuicideWatch: 21,718 unique users r/13ReasonsWhy: 7,900 unique users • Almost the great majority of these r/13ReasonsWhy posts were about the storylines, characters, and actors, there was an alarming amount of posts about the topic of suicide as compared to other issues portrayed in the show such as bullying, gun, sexual assault, and alcohol. • Only a small number of users overlapped between r/13ReasonsWhy and r/SuicideWatch although they were rather active on the discussion forum. • r/13ReasonsWhy served as a bridge to encourage vulnerable viewers to connect with peer support on r/SuicideWatch. Users who overlapped between the two subreddits used the online forums to describe their personal experiences, express deep emotions, and offer support to others in need of help.