In July 2010 Facebook had more than 400 million active users. 400 million people who on average have 130 digital friends, who create 70 pieces of content each month, and of whom 100 million even access Facebook through their mobile devices.1 These people share their photos, keep their friends posted on their whereabouts, subscribe to user groups and visit the pages of old school mates. Since its foundation in 2004, Facebook experienced explosive growth and new applications, such as games, mobile features, a gift shop and Facebook Ads were added almost monthly, making it the most important social network site on the web. When asked about their reasons for using Facebook, users mention qualities such as being given a platform to present themselves; to maintain connections with others; to meet new people; to articulate their social networks, or to engage in romantic or professional relationships (Cf. Ellison, Steinfield, Lampe 2007: 1). On the other hand, Wikipedia offers anyone knowing how to start up a web browser to easily find as much as fifteen different methods – some of them described in their every detail – for committing suicide. On ‘suicide-blogs’ depressed youngsters share stories, overtly discuss their plans, and ask advice on what pills to use in order to die the quickest.2 Although at first glance these sites might seem effective ways to offer help and mutual understanding in times of crisis, the result is frequently countereffective, handing morbid suggestions to already insecure kids and helping them cross the ultimate line. To shockingly quote a 16-year old girl on “Every day we talk through msn and fantasize about what it would be like in Heaven. Two weeks ago we started collecting pills. By now I get them from almost anywhere. From my parents’ medical aid kit or from friends. Soon I will have a lethal mix. Then, finally, I shall find peace.” These are all matters of identity. They deal with adolescents asking themselves important questions in the course of their lives: Who do I want to be? What do I want to look like? Where do I want to go with my life? Is there a meaning to my life? How can I end my problems?

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V.A.J. Frissen (Valerie) , J. Raessens , J. de Mul (Jos)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Erasmus School of Philosophy

Timmermans, J.H. (2010, November 16). Playing with Paradoxes: Identity in the web era. Erasmus University Rotterdam. Retrieved from