As we see mental health becoming more prominent in young people, we also see the rise of social media. Maybe it’s a coincidence, or maybe they’re intertwined.
Everywhere you turn, you will see a millennial scrolling through some sort of social media feed; feeds full of people showing off. From haircuts to holidays, we are filled with ideal lifestyles that we feel we should strive to have.
It could be real; it could be fake. Either way, our brains are filled with perfect pictures of lifestyles most of us can only dream of having.
Surely, this has an effect on our mental health. Now, I’m talking as a 22-year-old with a journalism degree, not a specialist in mental health, but hear me out. I, a junkie when it comes to social media, always question why I can’t be like the girls on the fitness page; why I can’t have a new pair of shoes every week or get on a plane willy nilly to the most exotic places. And this has effects on the way I view my life. I’m constantly questioning why I’m not good enough or why I haven’t achieved what all of the bloggers of the world have. I even started my own blog for Gods sake.
I spoke to Katie, another 22-year-old and a sufferer of mental health, to get her views: “I think it depends on the person and the kind of mental illness they have. Everyone responds to things in different ways. For me personally, it really affects my thoughts in a negative way, particularly Instagram where you can’t help but compare yourself to others. And there’s Snapchat where you see your friends having fun which can make you feel paranoid about your own relationships with others and isolate you even further. I wouldn’t say that I blamed social media for my depression but I definitely think that social media makes it a lot worse.”
Nobody posts the bad things. All people see on their feeds are the good times. Yes, we will post a pic of our new dress and pics at the beach on holiday. But no, we definitely will not post a selfie the morning after with our glasses on with a smudge of last night’s make up. But is this a cycle of doom? When we do look selfie ready, we feel good. But when we look in the mirror and feel like a potato, we question why we can’t look like the models and the bloggers causing us to feel crap about ourselves.
Is the answer to delete social media and start again with our Sony Ericson phones, where the coolest thing was the ringtone?
Katie continues: “Since deleting all social media I’ve noticed a massive difference and I don’t think I’d ever go back to using it the amount I did. I think it’s much more important to live in the now and experience things as they are rather than worrying about taking pictures and filming everything for Snapchat”.
However, social media has also opened up many doors and points of discussion that wouldn’t have even been a second though before. Anxiety and depression were kept a secret. Less people were aware of the term transgender and the term feminist meant nothing compared to what it means now. Social media has become a place where people can open up to each other with confidence and create groups and societies where they feel safe.
I spoke to Grace Daniels, a mental health nurse in training. “I think it can be a really good thing for people to use and connect with others. It can be a place for people to talk about their experiences and its usually free of judgment. If they don’t tell anyone in real life, they can talk about it online without it being attached to their identity.
On the other hand, I think certain things about the internet can be detrimental. It can encourage social isolation to stay inside and online, and also be a really easy way to trigger people. I’ve come across people who are attempting to recover from eating disorders who post pictures of their food and follow others with eating disorders, where it can become competitive as that is the nature of the illness.”
So, it’s swings and roundabouts. People can follow mental health bloggers and Instagram accounts made to support people who are suffering. But the same people can also follow things that are damaging to their health. I think the key here, is to use it in moderation.