. GLOCOM Platform
. . debates Media Reviews Tech Reviews Special Topics Books & Journals
.
.
.
.
.
. Newsletters
(Japanese)
. Summary Page
(Japanese)
.
.
.
.
.
.
Search with Google
.
.
.
Home > Special Topics > Social Trends Last Updated: 15:18 03/09/2007
Social Trends #91: November 4, 2004

Suicide in Japan: Part Seventeen Profile of internet suicide groups

J. Sean Curtin (Fellow, GLOCOM and Asia Times)

A full list of articles in this series can be found here.


Unlike most other forms of suicide, internet suicide has been extremely well documented in the media. Even though the number of cases in 2003 was relatively low, just 0.09 percent of all suicides, almost every incident has been widely publicized in the press and on television. Thus, it is possible to build up a fairly accurate profile of the phenomenon.

What is the average age and background of victims?
So far, the vast majority of internet suicide victims have been men and women in their twenties and thirties, with a few teenagers and people in other age groups. The victims come from a very broad spectrum of social groups, including university students, company employees, housewives, unemployed people and part-time workers.

What is the average size of an internet suicide group?
The number of people involved in an internet suicide pact varies from a minimum of two and so far the maximum number of people involved in one incident has been seven. While there is theoretically no limit on the number of people participating, seven appears near to the maximum as even at this figure group dynamics, secrecy and logistics must become difficult.

Experts say that victims prefer groups of three or more persons, because they fear that if two people commit suicide together, there may be a suggestion that they had some form of personal relationship or reason for killing themselves together. For its victims, the impersonal nature of internet suicide is apparently one of its attractive features. Despite a perceived preference for groups of three to four, two people committing suicide together is not an uncommon form of this phenomenon. This may be because it is easier to arrange and less complicated.

What are the commonest forms of internet suicide?
Inhaling carbon monoxide in an enclosed space and taking an overdose of sleeping tablets are by far the two commonest forms of internet inspired suicide. Both methods are detailed on a host of suicide-related websites and are often describe as being "fast and painless." Recently, the majority of cases have involved carbon monoxide asphyxiation.

For those attempting to kill themselves by inhaling carbon monoxide, sealed rooms and vehicles parked on remote forest roads or in secluded mountain areas are the favoured locations. The venue is normally sealed with plastic sheeting and duct tape before being flooded with carbon monoxide, usually emanating from coal-burning stoves. The victims are asphyxiated by breathing in the deadly fumes produced from the stoves. In a number of recent cases, briquettes burning portable cooking stoves have been used inside vehicles parked at isolated spots.

Other forms of internet suicide
There have also been unconfirmed reports that in some cases of internet suicide, the victims do not actually met up and die at different locations. Instead of encountering each other face to face, the victims are said to agree via the internet to simultaneously commit suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping tablets, or kill themselves by some other means. Whether this type of suicide actually occurs is doubtful. It would also be difficult to verify. Additionally, one of the key features of internet suicide is the need to die with someone and not be alone. Thus, this method would seem to contradict that objective.

Even if one assumes that this form of the phenomenon does occur, it raises a number of problems. What if one party decides not to commit suicide or if they are unsuccessful in their attempt? Also, if it is assumed that the victims simultaneously kill themselves in different parts of Japan, the police would probably discover them at different times, and may never connect the deaths.

Some elements of the media have also claim that in a few of these alleged simultaneous internet suicides, real-time internet cameras have been used. However, as far as is known, there have not been any actual verified reports of this occurring.

In reality, this particular internet suicide scenario is so far only really to be found in the fictional realm of morbid Japanese TV dramas and films.

While internet suicide can be profiled quite well, its underlying dynamics are more difficult to explain and will be discussed in a future article in this series.

A full list of articles in this series can be found here.

 Top
TOP BACK HOME
Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications