In late August a twelve year old girl and sixteen year old boy from Columbia took their lives because of the “Momo suicide challenge” according to a Fox News article. Police searched both of the youth’s phones and found messages connected to the game. Government secretary Janier Landono explained how this game was played through WhatsApp and encouraged kids to hurt themselves through challenges, ending in suicide. The game is being compared to similar ones in the past such as the “Blue Whale Challenge,” in Russia that also resulted in multiple deaths.
Youth are being involved in this dangerous game through persuasion. Persuasion is when a message urges a change in attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors. There are four key ingredients of persuasion, which includes, the communicator, the message, how the message is being communicated, and the audience. This viral “Momo” challenge has been spreading through WhatsApp and asks users to connect with them. Once accepted, the user is then persuaded and pressured into these challenges which involve self harm and suicide. The message is logical or one that arouses emotion. The game seems to use a peripheral route of persuasion to lure in it’s victims. Meaning, they focus on things that generate automatic acceptance without much thinking involved. For so many kids to be involved in this game the persuasion to play has to be appealing to the user. The process of persuasion is a big factor in the many deaths resulted from the game.
In addition to persuasion, the players were told by this game to participate in these harming acts, if they didn’t they were cursed and would start getting threatening messages. The game was looked at as a higher authority figure, so many of the players agreed. This is called obedience, which is when one follows the demands of a direct order or command. Studies show that there are psychological effects of obedience. One is when small requests turn into larger ones, which applies to this game in that the game gives a series of challenges, which the players complete and the final challenge is to commit suicide. Another effect is limited time to reflect on the decision, which the game does not give a lot of time to do. Since this game is over the internet it’s easier for the game to enforce harm on their victims because it’s easier to abuse when it’s not personal and face to face.
Chris Ciaccia “Viral ‘Momo suicide game’ blamed for deaths of boy,16, and girl, 12, reports say.” Fox News, 3 Sept, 2018, https://www.foxnews.com/tech/viral-momo-suicide-game-blamed-for-deaths-of-boy-16-and-girl-12-reports-say
Myers, D. G. (2018). Exploring Social Psychology (Eighth Edition). New York: McGraw Hill