Social media can be an extremely positive things. The modern age has provided voices for the silent or silenced, it has provided comfort for those who once may not have understood themselves and, most importantly, it has provided access to hundreds of communities for people that would have otherwise been suffering alone.
For me, these communities provided comfort, knowing that people were out there suffering and living with the same problems that I do – they made me feel less lonely and finally gave me an opportunity to make friends that I otherwise may not have had (due to my social anxiety). From the disabled community, to the mental health community even stretching to communities of people with particular problems and diagnosis’; it is inclusive and everyone can have a place where they feel like they belong – living in a society that may not be made for people like them.
Being on a section has meant that I have been isolated from the community, especially people my age. Leaving school and entering the confines of a psychiatric unit, meant that I no longer had my friends around me. Even in hospital, I couldn’t fit in with my peers (the patients). There were times of the day when I was allowed to go into a private lounge for a couple of hours just to get away from the bullying and torment of those around me (sometimes including the staff members).
Leaving children’s and adolescent (CAMHS) mental health unit, I didn’t have the majority of the friends I once had, many of which were soon moving to university. However, I did have my social media.
Moving into a locked rehabilitation (mental health rehab), I was allowed a phone (unlike the CAMHS – child and adolescent – unit), which allowed me to keep in contact with some of the friends I left behind and also make new ones. I became obsessed with my Instagram, spending hours upon hours looking at all of the people making such creative things and talking so openly and honestly about their lives and experiences with an array of different issues. I was learning more about things, people and even myself. It gave me a new level of intuition and insight into my own mental and physical wellbeing. Whether it was about the symptoms of my cerebral palsy or my mental health.
However, as with everything, there are negative sides to everything. When it comes to both the mental illness recovery community and the disabled community, these negatives can lead to problems with people’s wellbeing and can do more harm than good.
Sometimes in the mental health community, rather than promoting recovery, some opt to share extremely triggering content that can look like it is promoting the exact opposite – negative coping strategies and even relapse. While it may seem harmless, and a way for someone to express themselves, the more people doing this, the more it can seem that getting better is not the option to take. That accepting negative coping strategies is better than fighting them. Needless to say, that is an extremely dangerous way of viewing self harm.
Others choose to dedicate entire accounts to images of themselves and others (often strangers) promoting extremely ill-looking bodies. In the eating disorder community, this is known as ‘thinspiration’ and can be detrimental to a person’s health. People will use these images as incentive to either continue starving themselves or begin to, to achieve the thin bodies that they see in these images.
Something else that a lot less people talk about in the eating disorder community is ‘body checking’, which is when a person deliberately poses themselves in photos regularly, to check and show how much weight they have lost. Of course, not every slim person with an account full of selfies is doing this, but when it is paired with certain behaviours, a particular mentality and often being self-deprecating, it might be a sign of an eating disorder, or at least negative self image.
Personally, I find that seeing a person relapse far from inspirational. The romanticisation and glamourisation of mental illness and being in a mental health hospital has become more of a problem across bigger social media sites over the years, especially TikTok and Instagram. Honestly, you do not want to be stripped of your right to freedom and you do not want people staring at you in the shower. You are stripped from your dignity, you have a distorted view of what living in the community is like, you become dependent on those around you and you don’t have independence. I have lost my relationship with my family, many friends, while other relationships have become strained or distant. I can safely say that I value my time in nature and outside more so than the ones that I see on a screen.
No amount of attention you get on social media will equate to a fulfilling life outside. You cannot live your life from within the walls from a hospital.
Over the last couple of years on social media, it went from something I started engaging in more often to talk to people to make me less lonely, to something that I was obsessed with back to something that I use for friends and a community feel. I do pace myself a lot more than I used to, though.