How social media glorifies and romanticizes mental illness | Inquirer Opinion
LETTER TO THE EDITOR

How social media glorifies and romanticizes mental illness

/ 04:05 AM January 25, 2023

Although social media has indubitably served as a channel and platform for education and connection, a practice to romanticize certain issues has emerged.

For example, in order to advocate awareness for mental illness, many people on social media have resorted to portraying it as a beautiful tragedy of some sort.

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Many influencers talk like mental illness is just a quirky trait people have. By discussing the matter in a frivolous and light manner, a glamorized vision of mental illness is depicted as fact to those who are less informed. Through edited pictures, and quoting misunderstood turmoils/sensationalized phrases (e.g., “cute but psycho”), they endorse allure toward these subjects.

A study by Fredrika Thelandersson, “Social media sad girls and the normalization of sad states of being” points out that adopting a persona that shows emotional and mental instability has become popular as a trend. This may lead to invalidating people who do possess that illness but do not experience the same things.

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Depression is one of the very commonly glorified issues. Some teachers may say to their students that they are too young to be depressed. This, logically speaking, is quite inaccurate, as mental illness can be inherited or developed at any age depending on environmental and genetic bases. However, depression has begun to refer to a less chronic status of emotional temperament: such as being gloomy, exhausted, or despondent.

The media and educational environment also heavily affects views on mental illness and how it is regarded. Those who are more exposed to media will tend to equate any trait even slightly deviating from the collective ideal as equivalent to mental illness. Those who are less exposed and are taught that emotional affairs are not important will remain adamant that mental illness is only plausible in the most extreme of cases.

You can find teens on Tumblr or TikTok posting quotes and images revolving around mental issues that seem to portray it in a way of beauty or allure. While this itself may not seem like an issue, this actually promotes a distorted view. Such portrayals contribute to a culture that promotes the idea that mental illness itself is a manner of alternate self-expression rather than an actual issue.

However, this must not be confused with young users utilizing social media in order to discuss their personal emotions in order to gain social support. A 2014 study by Danah Boyd reported that the youth often turn to social media in order to evade the pressure of their environments, which may be deleterious to their mental health. Such platforms allow people to connect with others who experience similar experiences, thus providing them with a safe space.

Nonetheless, the issue regarding the misuse of self-diagnosing and self-disclosure of mental health prevails. Even films that depict the behaviors of mentally ill people tend to endorse an inaccurate view of it. Mainstream media not only distorts the views of those who are ignorant of the topic, but also the understanding and comprehension of mentally ill people themselves.

Mental illness has gone a long way from stigmatization to glorification. The best way to challenge stigmas and misconceptions is to properly educate people who are in need of correction and guidance. It is best to not engage or support such toxic practices, and rather aim to guide those who may feel invalidated by the media. It is not bad to share and discuss your personal feelings and struggles, but be careful not to put yourself in a position where you need to label yourself by titles you are not fully educated on.

Amanda Katherine

Federigan Chua

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TAGS: mental illness, social media
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