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Transcult Psychiatry. 2010 Jul;47(3):392-418. doi: 10.1177/1363461510370239.

Shared death: self, sociality and internet group suicide in Japan.

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Department of Anthropology, 1557 Dickey Drive, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


Existing models for understanding suicide fail to account for the distinctiveness of Internet group suicide, a recent phenomenon in Japan. Drawing from an ethnography of Internet suicide websites, two social commentaries in Japanese popular culture, and the work of developmental psychologist Philippe Rochat, I argue that participation in Internet suicide forums and even the act of Internet group suicide result from both a need for social connectedness and the fear of social rejection and isolation that this need engenders. These needs and fears are especially strong in the case of Japan, where the dominant cultural rhetoric ties selfhood closely to the social self that is the object of perception and experience by others. I show how such an understanding of Internet group suicide helps us to understand some of its basic characteristics, which are otherwise difficult to explain and which have puzzled the Japanese media and popular accounts: the "ordinariness" or casual nature of Internet group suicide, the wish for an easy or comfortable death, the wish to die with others, and the wish to "vanish." Internet group suicide sheds light on questions of Japanese selfhood in modernity and expands our understanding of suicide in Japan in general.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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