The Blue Whale Challenge has gained global notoriety as teen suicides in more and more countries become linked to the “game.” The series of daily tasks that increasingly isolates its participants into a macabre bubble towards its final, 50th task—suicide—is sparking fear and concern, especially among parents. As a result, we as a society become forced to deal with key questions this phenomenon raises:
Why are our teens today succumbing to such self-harming influences?
Also, what can be done to prevent our sons and daughters from falling victim to such incitement?
Why Are Today’s Teens Succumbing to Such Self-Harming Influences?
Today’s youth seek freedom from their predecessors. They don’t have the kind of attraction to the values their parents held. Feelings of meaninglessness, loneliness, emptiness and depression abound in today’s society and in today’s youth much more than in previous generations.
Why is this the case? It’s because our era is unprecedentedly unique. The growth of human desires—from our basic necessities of food, sex, family and shelter, through money, honor, control and knowledge—has reached a new phase of development, a new desire for meaning and connection, which society hasn’t worked out how to fulfill.
Since the surrounding society is focused on fulfilling the desires of the previous levels—food, sex, family, money, honor, control and knowledge—more and more people, and especially youth, find themselves internally detached from society, friends and family.
At the sensitive stages of adolescence and early adulthood, when the formation of one’s identity is of primary concern, youth consumed by feelings of detachment become vulnerable to persuasive influencers who aim to take advantage of the youths’ need for meaning, purpose and direction in life.
The Blue Whale Challenge creator himself, Philipp Budeikin, claimed that the psychological manipulation he conducted intended to make the victims happy by giving them the warmth, understanding and connection they didn’t get in their lives. In the same interview, he mentioned his motive for conducting the game was to “cleanse society” of “biological waste.” He is now serving jail time.
That is how the Blue Whale Challenge aims to function: The victims become obsessed with the performance of the tasks, losing the ability to activate the calculative and protective thought mechanism. What becomes most important for the victims is identification and adherence with the thought that controls them through the tasks. In such a hypnotic state, the victims become unaware that they’re endangering their lives. And such hypnosis can lead its victims to extremes: making them walk to the edge of a roof and jump off of it (the challenge’s 50th and final task).
Remember When We Asked Why So Many Youth Were Joining Terrorist Organizations Like ISIS? It’s the Same Mindset.
Just as today’s Blue Whale Challenge link to teen suicides hitting the headlines has raised questions as to why teens would succumb to such influences, not too long ago, the news was filled with stories based on a similar mindset: youth joining terrorist organizations like ISIS and fleeing to war zones, some even becoming suicide bombers, and people were questioning why that was happening.
It’s the same mindset repeating itself in a different way.
Psychologist Erich Fromm described in 1941 how so many people were attracted to Nazi ideology because an attribute of human nature fears freedom and prefers succumbing to authority than establishing one’s own life. While Western society’s majority get by in its pluralistic worldview, liberal freedom and individualistic values, more and more youth find themselves experiencing the dark side of these values: the supposed freedom and individualism is experienced rather as an oppression of meaningless uncertainty and loneliness. Thus, they become attracted to the idea of connecting to the will of another person or cause, which organizes and directs those feelings.
Both a Blue Whale Challenge victim and a terrorist suicide bomber see the will of the one controlling them as being more important than their whole life. By connecting to that will, they become freed from life’s problems, its uncertainty and struggles, simply by blindly attaching themselves to that idea. They enter their own mental and emotional bubble, where they follow that idea like a shadow, and see that shadow as a kind of angel that leads them to life’s depths.
For a person willingly participating in this pursuit, it’s not a horrible, dreary morbidity. On the contrary, it’s a lifeline, an “angel of life” that takes them by the hand into a white light. They see a solution for everything in their lives.
However, today’s new desire for meaning and connection isn’t awakening for people to find solace in isolated, self-harming, suicidal bubbles. On the contrary, it’s awakening so that we’ll discover a whole new sense of meaning, connection, fulfillment and happiness—another dimension of existence we’ve yet to experience—by correcting our social connections.
Therefore, if we care about our young and future generations, we should seek to create challenges and games that help them form positive connections. As they progress with the challenges and cultivate their connection, they should feel a growth of warmth, support and care, as well as develop their understanding of life.
A Blueprint for the Blue Whale Challenge’s Positive Alternative
A positive alternative to the Blue Whale Challenge is a challenge to create, mainly because it needs to inspire people to develop positive social connections. To make this possible, participants initially need to be organized into small groups, about ten per group, each with a common virtual space where they can communicate.
This grouping into around ten per group is so that the participants would feel mutually important, where their activity (or lack of activity) on a daily basis is clearly visible. If it were a group of hundreds of people, then each person would simply disappear into the crowd, and it wouldn’t have the desired impact.
Since there are 50 daily tasks in the Blue Whale Challenge, then the alternative challenge can also have 50 daily tasks.
The daily tasks, which can include writing, drawing and other creative work, need to make each participant intently work on an action during the day. They also need to advance the participants’ feeling of connection to each other.
The tasks’ completion should be presented in the common online group space for all participants to see. Each participant should be able to see everyone’s contributions. This will motivate participants to complete the tasks, to express their uniqueness and strengths through the tasks, and also to request help if they’re finding it difficult.
The more the participants enter their common group space, the more they should feel like they’re creating their own bubble. Gradually, if the tasks are correctly aimed and if the participants carry out the tasks, they should start feeling different forces influencing them than the forces they feel in their everyday lives: special forces dwelling in nature that surface when people work on creating a positive connection.
Through cultivating this positive connection, the participants would gradually discover a whole new sense of meaning in life: fulfillment, happiness and freedom from life’s problems. Contrary to the Blue Whale Challenge, participants would not detach from life, but in addition to everything they’re doing, they would develop a deeper understanding of life. Like detectives, they would enter into an investigation to solve the more internal aspect of life’s thoughts, desires, emotions and relationships, and become more thoughtful, curious and analytical.
Therefore, let’s see how we can provide a solution for today’s youth: as an alternative to meaninglessness, there will be a feeling that life has meaning and purpose; instead of loneliness, there will be feelings of support, warmth and care; instead of emptiness, there will be the motivation to explore and contribute to society; and instead of depression, there will be happiness. We just need to work on improving our connections, and as a result, a whole new world will open up to us.