Thursday, 9 November 2017

A look at the mental health community

For a little over a year I have been an active part of the mental health twitter community and wow have I seen some changes, and now I am at this weird cross road where I am not quite sure if I want to keep my place in that community. Let me explain.

When I first joined the mental health twitter community it was a really tight group of people who I found truly inspiring and these people helped to make me want more than just blogging. Through reading other peoples blogs I was able to create a style of writing that I am comfortable with and through this community I was able to make some friends, but again I have a slight issue with this which i'll talk about later on.  Being part of this community really has given me a lot. 

HOWEVER, there are quite a few drawbacks to this community that have become apparent to me recently. The tight knit community that I first came into is no more, in fact the mental health community is now so big over on twitter (which is great that so many people are talking about it) that there is almost no community feeling at all. This is something I miss and if I am being completely honest, I miss for selfish reasons. I miss the attention, having people who were my supporters because we were part of that tight knit community. Back when I first joined twitter, my followers were about 200 and now im fast approaching 2000, so could this feeling just be that I expected more as my followers grew? I guess when you have 200 followers and 10 of them are becoming friends and support everything you do and then you have 2000 followers and only 15 that have become friends and support you, you begin to question where you went wrong. Again another problem with the internet is that as I don't personally know these 2000 people I can't know if they actually love my blog but are just too shy to say so. I guess what I am saying is that as my followers grow there is more of a feeling of being unimportant, as if I am talking to a brick wall, people aren't specially invested in listening, or they listen they just don't react. 

Now of course I have made some friends online but I think I need to classify these people as "friends" because can you count someone a friend who you don't actually really know, who if you disappeared would never be able to find out why, who doesn't know the sound of your laugh and who can't actually hug you when you are crying? Again maybe i'm thinking too deeply about this but my ideas about this community are changing. 

Everyone has becoming obsessed with views and followers and it pains me to say that I am becoming one of those people. I am basing my worth as a blogger and human on the number of followers I have and how my daily views are looking. As much as I know that content is what counts, it is hard to remain in that frame of mind when the community is built on followers and views. The better you are the bigger your numbers.  Again it is so hard not to compare yourself to people who are getting invited to awards, writing proper books, doing tv/radio work and writing for huge newspapers when you know that you are struggling with your mental heath and not doing all that much outside your own blog. Twitter is great as it shows you what you can achieve by having an audience, but it also shows you what you don't have. 

Furthermore, the twitter community can be a real negative place. Recently there was a couple break up and some of the tweets I read I think are such a cowardly way to make people hate the other person. Things like that should be left off twitter. Off course with it also being a mental health community people do tweet about their mental states (I do too) but is this actually helpful? Especially when you tweet about how awful you feel and no one cares to reply, this just leaves you feeling even worse. Again, this is where the twitter community and true friends can get confused. These strangers have no obligation to check in on you and to support you, where as a true friend would do what they can to make you feel better. (There are some exceptions in this community and if you are reading this you know who you are and I want to thank you for your continued support.)

So now I am at a crossroad about whether or not to continue in this community. Twitter has got me SO many opportunities. If it wasn't for twitter I wouldn't have had been invited to the Thrive Emetophobia bootcamp, I wouldn't have become a Student Minds Fundraising Champion and I wouldn't be a Time to Change media volunteer. In simple terms I wouldn't be the blogger or mental health advocate that I am today. However, recently I have been wondering if you can be part of the mental health community and be recovered? Or does being in that community feed my bad mental health? Do I subconsciously feel a need to be awful in order to be relevant? (I am being completely honest, don't hate on me). My mental health was doing really well 4 months ago and then it got awful, of course it got awful because of a few things that happened but do I subconsciously prolong recovery? I don't know, i'm just typing as I think. I am trying to imagine myself a year down the line where anxiety, emetophobia and self harm aren't a part of my life and I'm trying to imagine where this community fits into that. In all honesty I'm not sure it does. I don't want to leave the internet, in fact I think i'm slightly obsessed with the it so would actually find this really hard to do, but I am wondering if i need to shift slightly which corner of the internet I sit in. I think for as long as I am on twitter I will always have a tie to this mental health community but do I want to be so much invested as I am now when I am better? I don't know. 


  1. By nature, every social group, for any goal, has its ebbs and flows. It tends to be small at first, expands, stagnates, expands, stagnates, and may reduce occasionally, or split into sub-groups of mutual interests. This is all based on models from our prehistoric ancestors as they needed to group to survive harsh natural situations, and formed in time all basis for current social groups in sociopolitical and much wider scales as the populations grew.

    Our current situation is complex, with interactions of comparison as well as mutual support, understanding and seeking tools towards specific goals. The mh community on twitter is no different, and seems to have split into sub-portions based on chat hashtags and possibly geographic closeness which allows locals to meet, but excludes those who cannot travel.

    It’s also possible that sub-groups are formed in relation to specific mental illnesses, as people who share the same conditions can best understand and offer advice to one another, and that is fine in itself, but has the side effect of leaving some of us out of the loop when mutual education and cross-illness support aren’t as important in some groups.
    This summer marked a breaking point for chats, as people were on vacation, or just out and about, and I know that I for one have struggled with an odd bout of depression which I tend to get in winter, not in summer. I noticed that support was less readily available and that many of us in the community also struggled.

    I stopped looking at followers and blog stats, as I found out they are not indicative of anything. 1st, my own visits have been counted, even when I tell blogger not to. 2nd, this means my stats are all false. 3rd, only comments on blog or in private messages tell me who read & if they liked, were inspired, touched, understood me better, or helped in their own struggles. I have never had more than 400 followers & 160 followees on twitter and even fewer friends over facebook, but that’s not important to me.

    I hope the few friendships I made will last, but I know that part of online relationships tend to be even more fickle and fleeting than in real life, but in the end, everything has an end, one way or another. Once this is accepted, we can learn to go with the flow and enjoy any friendship and exchange that may help us grow as individuals, not only expanding our understanding and knowledge, but also our emotional well-being.

    I understand and acknowledge your feelings which are valid ; however, I do know that at least a few of us do care about you & worry/sad when you struggle, and I think it’s important for you to remember that although mental illness is very isolating and experienced alone, you don’t have to be totally alone, as you can reach out and rely on us to support you and take relay of one another when some of us are busier, someone else will always be there.

    I hope that you will remain on twitter, as part of the community to which you do belong; but maybe you need to a) change the way you interact, if you feel this is the issue, or b) assert your position and request that you are given the feedback that you deserve and feel that you haven’t.

  2. As to post-illness presence, that’s totally up to you. You may find you no longer have the passion, or on the contrary, even more of it, with regained energy and drive to help others, but you won’t know that until it happens. Either way will be fine, as you would have had a host of experiences to use in a lasting recovery, and the possibility, should you wish, to share with others.

    I would say, on the other hand, that even before this occurs that you can & maybe should expand the reasons why you are online, as you are more than the sum of your mental illness struggles. Maybe expand your blog or make 1 or several more to correspond to other topics that you love- that’s what I did, and it helps to avoid burning-out on MH subjects alone ; thus, once you find your other passions, can widen your scope. Maybe these expansions can help your possible subconscious prolonging of recovery, as if you have other things to do discuss, you would be able to recover and still maintain a social position to be comfortable with.

    I hope these will help you to redefine your online presence, and reassure you that at least in my eyes as well as others, that you are an important part of the community, but due to online life, everything on here is fleeting and on constant movement, and has to be accepted as such in order to be enjoyed.

    After all, just like you pointed out, you did get a lot of return and opportunities thanks to your blogging, and these in turn bring you tools for recovery and further opportunities down the line.

  3. Thank you for your comment Lulu. I think I need to change my approach to social media in order to feel more content about it. I really enjoy mental health blogging but as you may have noticed have began to incorporate lifestyle articles in order to change things up a little, however, I am still in the process of finding a writing style for lifestyle posts that I am comfortable with. Once I find comfort I think I will find it slightly easier to become my own and not be so involved with the mental health community .

  4. You're welcome Angie! It takes time to find your voice for any topic, so you'll need patience & trials to get exactly what you want for each, unless you approach them all on the same level in the end. You are more than the sum of your struggles with mental illnesses, so it's really good that you are expanding the scope of your blog entries.

    Am sure you'll get where you want, in time, patience & work, and if you ever need, support and advice. Hope you sort things out and find your paths

  5. Hey Doris! I've spent my lunch break at work reading through your blog and I'm in total awe of your writing style. You write so beautifully and with such authenticity. I really understand where you were coming from when you wrote this post. I actually feel the same currently, and to be honest, in regards to the mental health twitter community, I feel quite lost and insignificant nowadays. I think, if I just deleted my account, would anyone actually notice? Does any of these people actually read my blog? Etc. I too miss how it used to be. Keep on doing what you're doing though, you're amazing.

    Meg x

    1. Hey, thank you so much for your kind words. I think the community really has lost its sense of self and has instead branched off into small groups. Unfortunately, I feel like its easy to get lost in the mix. Of course people would notice if you deleted your account Meg. I always tell myself as long as my blog helps one person then I have done what I have set out to do.

      Angela x