Social media may play a role in the “contagion” mechanism thought to underpin suicide clusters. Our pilot case-control study presented a novel methodological approach to examining whether Facebook activity following cluster and non-cluster suicides differed. We used a scan statistic to identify suicide cluster cases occurring in spatiotemporal clusters and matched each case to 10 non-cluster control suicides. We identified the Facebook accounts of 3/48 cluster cases and 20/480 non-cluster controls and their respective friends-lists and retrieved 48 posthumous posts and replies (text segments) referring to the deceased for the former and 606 for the latter. We examined text segments for “putatively harmful” and “putatively protective” content (e.g., discussion of the suicide method vs. messages discouraging suicidal acts). We also used concept mapping, word-emotion association, and sentiment analysis and gauged user reactions to posts using the reactions-to-posts ratio. We found no “putatively harmful” or “putatively protective” content following any suicides. However, “family” and “son” concepts were more common for cluster cases and “xx”, “sorry” and “loss” concepts were more common for non-cluster controls, and there were twice as many surprise-and disgust-associated words for cluster cases. Posts pertaining to non-cluster controls were four times as receptive as those about cluster cases. We hope that the approach we have presented may help to guide future research to explain suicide clusters and social-media contagion.
|Number of pages
|International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
|Published - 1 Jan 2022