For more than a year, most of Millicent Kithinji’s Facebook friends ignored her posts, many of which were overwhelmingly laden with clear signs of unhappiness, dissatisfaction with life, depression and suicidal thoughts.
But when she finally reached the tipping point and committed suicide on March 21, her friends, and suddenly the country, were finally forced to take note.
Everything was on a downward spiral from April 2017, when Kithinji posted a picture of her daughter held by her father.
In August 2017, she wrote on Facebook, “Some situations make me think that the dead are at peace than the living”. In October the same year, she asked God to remember her.
Again, in November, Kithinji wrote that stress had become a recurrent feature of her life before complaining in December about a woman who gossiped about her and her daughter. Even though her posts were scattered over months, they were indicative of Kithinji’s depression, as well as the underlying problems.
According to her family and friends, Kithinji’s depression was powered by a train of unfortunate circumstances, from joblessness and financial struggles to strife with her child’s father, who she had separated with.
In one of Kithinji’s posts, written a day before her suicide, the mother of a three-year-old girl expressed frustration over her inability to give her daughter a comfortable life despite her immense love for her.
Finally, on March 21, Kithinji hanged herself in an animal shed in her parents’ home.
According to experts, cases like Kithinji’s show the need to minimise or be more vigilant about social media use, given that it only exerts more pressure on individuals already battling serious problems such as depression.
“People who have low self-esteem, poor impulse control or a tendency toward addiction should pay attention to their social media use. Contrary to many people’s fears, social media does not make someone more socially avoidant or isolated. In fact, it can do the opposite by providing access to people and resources,” notes Pamela Rutledge, a media psychologist.
While in cases like Kithinji’s, people may use social media to cry out for help or attention, there are those that are pushed to feelings of inadequacy as they compare their lives to the glamorous ones of friends splashed on the sites.