Interactor from Brazil combats a deadly online game
White Whale designed to promote peace and self-esteem
Horrified by stories about an online suicide game called Blue Whale, Gabriel Kenji of Brazil decided to create a game to counter the dangerous online trend, and hopefully, save lives.
The Blue Whale Challenge is a chilling suicide game allegedly run by a social media group. The game preys on vulnerable adolescents and teenagers, who are instructed to complete a set of challenges over a 50-day period. The tasks begin harmlessly but become increasingly more dangerous, including self-punishing, and end with the teenager being urged to take their own life.
“When I first heard about the horrific game, I thought it was a problem far away from Brazil,” says Kenji, a member of the Interact Club of Pinhais, Parana, Brazil. “Once it reached my country I realized this type of evil can be anywhere. I had to do something to alert others about the seriousness of the problem.”
The game may have originated in Russia where more than 130 suicides have been allegedly linked to the game. The online trend has caused significant concern in Western Europe and South America, particularly in Brazil, where alleged suicide attempts from the game have cropped up in at least eight states. At least two suicide cases in the U.S. have been linked to the online fad. The title is said to refer to blue whales that beach themselves purposefully to die.
While no one can prove the existence of the game or identify who is behind these suicidal challenges, what is clear is that young people are ending their lives and documenting it on social media.
So Kenji decided to do something about it. He devised a social media game that he named White Whale to help boost self-esteem, self-worth, and peaceful interactions among young people.
Challenges include forgiving yourself for mistakes, exercising daily, discovering new facts about people in your life, participating in volunteer activities, and posting positive messages on social media.
We want to show young people that they can make small changes to change the direction of their lives.
Interact Club of Pinhais, Parana, Brazil
White Whale is a way for teenagers, who may be vulnerable to the suicide game, to engage in positive activities and feel valued, says Kenji. He chose the name White Whale because he says the color white signifies peace, purity, and clarity.
“We want to show young people that they can make small changes to change the direction of their lives,” says Kenji, who will enter college this year to study dentistry. “There is another path for teenagers to take that is far removed from an action like taking their own lives.”
Fellow Interactors and local Rotaract club members are helping to spread the word about White Whale by passing out brochures and information at bus and train stops, busy intersections, and to friends and family. They also helped Kenji create some of the game’s challenges. “I’m so grateful that my club and others people in the Rotary family are taking a small idea and making it big,” he says.
According to Kenji, about 4,000 people have shared the White Whale’s Facebook page with a reach of nearly 30,000.
Kenji says he’s already seen tangible results from the game among his own friends. “I’ve had friends tell me that the game is giving them the courage to reconcile broken friendships. It’s great to see. I hope this is just a start.”