Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Mental Health and Social Media

So I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and came across a post that related  to self-harm. This then sparked the question in me: is social media a good or bad development for mental health issues. So I did some research, typing in self harm (With a slight change to the spelling, as Instagram doesn't allow the hashtag self harm however to not trigger anyone I will not write the exact spelling I used.) into the search bar of Instagram and I was shocked at what I found. A whole community of people posting (at times) very graphic photos of their self harm. What shocked me most when I clicked onto one of the profiles was that it was the account of a 13 year old girl. Somebody who could be self harming for a number of reasons but choose to join the community that found itself online, gaining likes for her destructive behaviour.

Whilst this community feel may be comforting to some people and allow them to vent I can't help but see the dangers in this. By posting graphic photos firstly these people are then becoming triggers to other people self harming, therefore making this a community of people that trigger themselves. But secondly through these people posting their wounds it then becomes of competition of who's are worse? Shall I now discuss the judgement? Whilst there are many people who will try to offer help to someone who is self harming, offering an ear to listen or just some words of encouragement like "you can beat this!" there are people online who will be VERY unhelpful. During my research I found comments that were disgustingly horrible calling them attention seeking and swearing and really bringing the person down. Whilst I am not sure about the whole "lets post pictures online", comments like that aren't helpful!

I then continued my research but changing it to anorexia, and the same shocking images appeared. Unrealistically  skinny and clearly photo shopped photos that people were calling their thinspiration. Some accounts were personal ones where people would post their "progress" and say how much they had eaten, which once again, doesn't that just create competition between accounts?  Whilst during my research I didn't come across a "community" such as this, however I have heard that there are "communities" on Instagram which actually encourage other users not to eat, praising them when they post that they haven't eaten but also being abusive when they have.

I do think these visual photos should banned from the internet however I also realise that this will never happen and I guess if your searches don't include these sorts of topics then you are fine. However, my issue goes back to the 13 year old. If she has realised this "community" is there where she can post photos of her self harm and get likes for it, then how many other young teenagers maybe even kids are getting access to this?? We are constantly on about how children shouldn't be seeing things with a sexual reference online but we allow them to see pictures of mutilated arms (some of the photos online are horrific) and pictures of "the perfect body". It is crushing young people even more.

Social media in itself makes you question your own self worth, I think most of us can admit that if we don't get enough followers or likes then we feel worthless. In general I think social media is a great invention, allowing us all to stay in contact and share our lives, however there is a whole dark side and in my opinion, this could be partially to do with the sudden rise in the amount of young people that suffer from mental health issues.

I asked you guys what you thought about this, here are your opinions:

LO: Social media is a positive thing, I feel like there has been a lot more talk of it recently to try and stop the stigma surrounding mental health, especially around mental health issues in men recently.

AI: Ahaa well I think it can be a great place to talk to other people with the same/similar issues and thus feel like you're without judgement. However I think social media can be unhelpful because you will often get advice/opinions from people without expert training, E.g. having someone
give their advice on how to deal with X issue may not actually be the right way overall to deal with X. I think Tumblr is particularly problematic of this issue, and it will often indulge on the whole "You have a mental illness and you should embrace it", as if having a mental illness is a unique quirk.

HC: Negative for sure, I think social media (tumblr in particular in my case) has such high standards of what you have to be or look like or things you have to do to "be cool". Every now and then it starts off like "oh yeah I kind of relate to that and that" and then you start thinking like that. I had a lot of followers on tumblr as well so as people know, a lot of followers brings hate comments! I posted a picture of me and my boyfriend once from prom and I got a message saying something like I looked like a fat drawf. Which I didn't really care about, it was kind of funny to be honest but then other people start jumping on the hateful bandwagon and you slowly start to believe them. It always seemed like people had it worse then me, like I should be happy when I wasn't so I suppressed those feelings and acted like I was fine because I felt like I wasn't allowed not to be okay, which in turn made things worse.

EA: Its good because it allows you to communicate with friends and family who may be far away so could boost happiness. However, it can be extremely harmful as unrealistic body images are portrayed so body dimorphia is becoming more and more common. Also, people's lives are shown to be perfect all the time and the bad times we all experience aren't shown, so people may get sad that their life is so much worse than other peoples. Overall the negatives out way the positives as just by looking at personal experience, we all known that after going on social media , say instagram, it just makes you a bit sad about your own life.

DM: On the whole I'd say it has a negative influence because it facilitates negative social comparison and causes us to waste a lot of time on trivialities.

Want to give your own opinion? Comment below.

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