What The Blue Whale Game Teaches Us About Indian Media And SocietyAugust 30, 2017
The term “Blue Whale Game” first emerged a month or so ago in Indian social media circles en mass. Before becoming mainstream panic, it was mostly relegated to message boards like 4chan and secretive communities in different social media sites like Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook. The thing about this whole “game” is that it’s not actually a video game, but if you were to talk a random passerby in India, they’d warn you against playing video games and cite the “Blue Whale Challenge” as an example. It’s unfortunate that the panic that has risen due to this ‘game’ is going in completely the wrong direction and in turn, not being addressed properly. And honestly, all I can seem to blame are the numerous Indian Media Houses who do not fact check their information and employ absolute garbage journalists.
The entire premise of the -Blue Whale Challenge- is to target vulnerable individuals who are not stable mentally and coerce them into completing tasks that would make them go down the rabbit hole of insanity event faster, tasks like – binge watching horror movies, waking up at 4:20 in the morning, self-harm, etc. Eventually, the final task would be to kill oneself by committing suicide. That’s it.
However, if you’re to believe credible Indian (news?) websites, you might very well think that Blue Whale is an app that magically kills you after you’re done playing it, like some tape in a horror movie but it’s a video game because we’re in 2017 now. For example, an article in Storypick, which glamorizes an Indian mom’s false misinterpretation of the game, ends with by saying, “It’s alarming that mobile, i-pads and computers are so casually available to children these days that the parents might fail to notice what their kids are keeping up with. It’s affecting the influential minds of little kids, who don’t understand this dreadful game and how it can ruin their entire lives.” The article doesn’t even bother to refute the fact that it is not a video-game per say.
Now you might wonder what’s wrong with blaming technology for a ‘game’ that uses technology as a platform to reach out to vulnerable individuals, regardless of whether it’s an app that you need to download or not. The problem is, most Indians are idiots, and they won’t go further than reading the headline before terming a task-based-game-based-on-social-media-interaction a “video game”. There’s also the fact that people are completely missing out on the point of why this so called ‘game’ is even taking lives. If “vulnerable children” hasn’t given you a hint already, the ideal target for the “Blue Whale Challenge” are depressed teenagers. And given that India is a country where depression isn’t even acknowledged by the mainstream public, our country is good feeding grounds for such a game to exist and thrive in. The misinterpretation by the public about what the “game” actually is and how the media has portrayed it, also makes the matter much worse at the end of the day.
At the end of the day, the “Blue Whale Challenge” phenomenon that has swept the public and seems to be slowly dying down, only reinforces my beliefs on how irresponsible most Indian media houses seem to be while reporting about a serious issue. About how their incessant search for something to ‘blame’ causes them to blame something that is entirely unrelated and in a way which withdraws our focus from the issue that needs our attention. The “Blue Whale Game” is more of a catalyst towards the death of all the individuals it has claimed than the sole reason. To understand why the deaths took place, it is of utmost importance for us to make ourselves aware of what the game is and how it targets the mentally unstable in order to cause them harm. It is also of great importance for us as a society to stop forwarding information that we cannot back up with evidence.
If someone commits suicide because of the “Blue Whale Challenge”, then chances are that the person was depressed and in a vulnerable position from beforehand. The challenge only hastens the process and tries to make the person kill himself faster. People and media who are single-handedly pointing towards the game as the source of unfortunate recent deaths are completely ignoring the fact that there might have been several elements, excluding the game, around the victim’s life which might have also pushed him towards his demise.
Also, before I forget and I know this is obvious at this point but let me just say it one last time, the “Blue Whale Challenge” is not a video game.