Self-Injury Videos Go Viral: A Disability Studies Perspective



From WebMD Health News

By Kelli Miller Stacy

Feb. 21, 2011 — Self-injury videos that show young people intentionally harming their bodies is an alarming new trend that’s being fueled by the popular video-sharing web site YouTube, researchers report in the March issue of Pediatrics.

Self-injury, also called self-mutilation or self-harm, is when a person deliberately hurts himself or herself through acts such as cutting, stabbing, or burning.  Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) refers to the deliberate, immediate destruction of body tissue for purposes unrelated to tattooing or piercing and which is not intended to cause death.

NSSI is a worrisome and frequently occurring act that may be a sign of sadness, loneliness, despair, low self-esteem, or the feeling of being unloved. About 14% to 24% of adolescents and young adults have engaged in some type of self-harm.


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Make no mistake: the impulse to self-injure is a serious disability. But researchers have it wrong when they argue that NSSI is unrelated to tattooing. The creation of self-injury videos is a narrative act. It is a graphic representation of what has always been in teen diaries, namely the proof of despair. In our age the body has become a tabula rasa—it is the site where young people write their notes of darkness. And in a post-literary era filming the body in pain is the diary. Failing to recognize this is tantamount to not understanding the rearrangement of the writer-actor-audience relationship that has happened in our time.

Once again the researchers have failed to understand the patients. Blaming the social media or YouTube in this instance is like blaming the book binder for what’s in the book.