I’ve written about cyber-bullying before and about how Social Media can play a role in both the negative aspect of mental health and the positive as well. Recent events, such as various suicides that went viral on social media compelled me to write a bit more on the cause.
So, what is depression?
The only thing that everybody needs to know and understand is that depression is very real just like cancer or heart disease, and that it can kill if left unattended to.
What are we doing wrong?
We speak of depression and open our hearts out to everyone on social media with messages that encourage victims of depression to speak up about it when an iconic personality like Chester Bennington or Chris Cornell fall victim to it. But what of the other times? Especially in a country like Sri Lanka where any form of anxiety or mental affliction is equaled as “crazy” or “mad”, how do we differentiate between the people who need to be actually admitted for mental health treatment and those that just need a bit of guidance and support? Where we are wrong, is by thinking that a simple message on social media will do the trick. You see, people with depression are not able to expose their worst triggers and how they feel openly. It is the nature of the disease. Only by forming a trust with a friend or therapist can they even think of slightly opening up. So if you think that a message shared saying that “my doors are open to anyone” would help, it wouldn’t really, not to a great extent.
Is social media fueling depression?
Yes, it is. But it cannot be blamed 100% for it either. I like to think of social media as grey matter. It can be used for either good, like reaching out during crisis management, staying updated and marketing methods. It can also be used for negative purposes like body shaming, cyberbullying, spreading terrorism online and the likes.
How does social media fuel depression?
Recent studies have clearly indicated that platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat have heavily played a role in the decline of mental health among its young audience. The fact that it has been used as means of insulting, cyber-bullying, body speech and hate speech have even been noticed by these tech giants who are now up to their elbows trying to control and combat the spread of this negative trend.
Our minds are strange and really stupid at times. It basically believes anything that you will pour into it. While training to become a psychologist, I had the opportunity to explore cases where many people between the ages of 13 – 28 felt depressed because they kept comparing their real life to the pictures and images shared by their friends and peers. They felt like they were inferior and not doing as well as, or not as good looking as, or not as successful and rich as them. The truth is nobody really shares their moments of weakness, arguments, breakups, fights and financial crises on social media. Comparing real life to somebody’s online life is s sure fire way to get depressed. Another is pressure. The pressure to maintain yourself according to social norms that have been engraved into our mindset and feeling like you have wasted your life is another common depression trigger. Trying too hard to fit in, setting unrealistic life expectations, relationship goals and falling prey to cyberbullies out there are all triggers in the current society.
Just think, social media compels us to click pictures of food before actually eating it. It has compelled us to record a child’s poetry recital and upload it without actually enjoying it in person. But then again, is it social media, or is it the users?
How can we know if somebody is depressed, by looking at their social media?
It’s tricky, if the person is a complete stranger but not entirely impossible if you know them in real life. Common signs of depression include negativity, lethargy, drowsiness, suicidal tendencies, paranoia, panic attacks, personality changes and mood swings. Anger, frustration, the need to be alone, zoning out and violence are all side effects of the condition.
Look out for posts or poetry or even song quotes that speak of darkness, solitude and the giving up of hope. People with depression tend to reach out subconsciously for help. If you see a post about ending life or self harm, reach out or get help for the person immediately.
Can we eradicate depression?
Absolutely, but maybe not anytime soon if you are to look at it realistically. The pressures of the current lifestyle are far too many. To be devoid of depression triggers one has to really be content with what they have and who they are without comparing themselves to other people.
Stay alert, use social media to spread kindness and reach out.
Because depression kills.
It starts within you.
It ends with ending you.