Social Media: The Cause of The Mental Health Epidemic?

How are you feeling? – not a question many of us actually answer honestly and more and more people want to know why.

Social media is awash with unattainable bodies and lives – so much so, even the people posting it can’t achieve it either. The gap between reality and social media is ever growing, and it is something that more people are coming to realise.

As well as the growth of social media, there has also become the growth of something a bit more sinister. Mental health issues. In this blog post I want to explore the digital impact on our mental health and how social media plays a role in the mental health crisis our world is facing.

The Unwritten Rules of Social Media

It seems like all social media platforms come with different unwritten rules.

For instance, Facebook, The ORIGINAL social media site, is primarily for extended family. The cousin you only see at Christmas, your old best friend from primary school who is now engaged. And of course, your grandma. You want your Facebook to reflect how well your life is going, how you’re ‘succeeding’ at uni- and not the bitter truth that you haven’t left bed in days or read the brief for the assignment that’s due tomorrow.

Similarly with Instagram, another persona. With feeds filled with ‘Gap Yah’ posts, pictures of girls posing by their front door before a night out, or a standard selfie. Instagram is about trying to portray that your life could not be better, constantly clubbing or on holiday.

Twitter is arguably the most ‘real’, you would struggle to scroll through your feed without coming across numerous retweets about feeling depressed or fat.

Although on the surface this might sound incredibly shallow, in a way it is quite refreshing. Where else on social media do you see people voicing their insecurities or how they’re actually feeling? In the age of ‘talking’ and being open, surely it has to be a good thing that we feel comfortable enough to use social media to communicate honestly. Could you imagine how different Instagram and Facebook would be if everyone was as open as they are on Twitter?

Mental Health

The mental health crisis is only getting worse. Over 5000 people tried to take their own lives in the UK – 75% of those being males (Mental Health Foundation, 2017). Arguably the fact that men are less likely to express their feelings leaves them feeling alone. Making suicide the only route. Suicide is the biggest killer for men between the ages of 20-49 in England and Wales. Highlighting how important talking is.

If we could be more honest on social media and let people know we are struggling, rather than feeling the need to maintain the perfect online persona, we could help to reduce those shocking statistics.

Social Media Campaigns

Due to those shocking statistics, there has been a shift in society as a whole. More and more people are coming out to talk about their difficult experiences urging others to speak out as well. The same is happening online. All mental health charities have free information or live chat forums for anyone who visits their websites. On social media, there are a large number of vloggers who express their struggles with eating disorders, anxiety and more.

Sites such as Twitter and Instagram are overrun with campaigns like ‘#UOKM8’ and ‘#Hereforyou’ encouraging more people to be open with their struggles and experiences with mental health issues.

Criticisms

With social media being covered in hashtags and campaigns, it is very easy to get swept up and exploit mental health. Whilst it is an incredibly good thing for all people and celebrities to open up, it could lead to young social media users to misdiagnose themselves with these serious illnesses.

Online personalities such as Zoella, talking so openly about her anxiety, had an extremely positive response, leading to some viewers to go and get the help they needed. However, due to her young impressionable fanbase, it is very easy for them to make up the symptoms of panic attacks and anxiety. Talking themselves into actually having the illnesses.

Others have criticised the likes of Zoella, for profiting off their mental illnesses. Some argue that ‘confession videos’ of this kind need to be treated with suspicion. As in this case, Zoella is actually earning ad revenue from the video. Raising the question does she actually suffer with it? Or, is she using it as a marketing scheme to make her seem more real, whilst earning more money as a result.

To conclude…

Social media has turned the world as we know it upside down.  Users are quickly realising how detrimental the digital age is to our mental health, and through the use of online campaigns, is helping to change social media for the better.  Yet, like in any walk of life, there will be those who exploit for their own gain. Similarly, there will be those that will criticise.

But in the long run, if we all become more aware that social media does NOT reflect reality, and use social media for less shallow and selfish reasons. We can help reduce the mental health epidemic.

If you are suffering with any of the issues that have been discussed in the post, visit the Samaritans website here: https://www.samaritans.org.

Or, call them for free here:

Please feel free to follow and dm me on twitter @_thatsmy0pinion.  Use the #TMO and start a discussion of your own! Also, leave a comment down below and have a chat with others about the topics discussed.

Check back next week for a brand new post!

 

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