Social media: Trends, observations, potential pitfalls and things to consider
*Firstly, I want to make extremely clear here that I am not inferring or stating that all content displayed within the area of mental health and wellbeing on social media is wrong, ill informed, or attempting to make money, at the expense of humans in need of support. Nor am I indicating that anyone, whether well or unwell is unable to think for themselves, know what they want, or what feels good for them. That is simply not true. What I am attempting to do though, is to highlight areas and things to be aware of when searching, scrolling and absorbing information, advice and discussion in and around this area.*
We live in an age where social media is extremely popular. It is where we go to connect with old friends, meet new friends, laugh at the memes that circulate daily, cry at some of the content that we witness. We can see what is going on in people’s lives, have ‘our say’; get involved in the ‘drama’, should we want to. We can read about celebrities, find out about new places, new things, events, retreats. You name it, social media has it. It can provide us with ALL the things, and it’s there, right at our finger-tips.
One increasingly popular trend that I am witnessing presently, is the discussion around wellbeing and ‘mental health’. There are whole accounts devoted to it, different individuals sharing content around lived experiencing, organisations getting involved, people tweeting, posting and sharing content in and around this. These individuals might share about diagnoses, medication, talking therapies, alternative therapies, anything that they are doing (or that they have heard of and want to try) that is working for them, or has helped them in some way.
It can be wonderful. I, for one, am delighted that we seem to be moving into a time were talking about feelings and the reality of human life is out there, for us all to get involved in and/or observe. It can ‘normalise’ aspects of life that people may have felt they were struggling through, alone. It can be supportive and comforting and helpful, in many ways.
Something I also see on social media is accounts that make huge, bold claims and promises. It is not untypical for me to be scrolling through my Instagram account to be met with an advertisement that promises to ‘cure anxiety within 15 minutes’, or ‘change your brain in 2 simple steps’. Such messages pop up consistently whilst I am using my platform and such claims and assurances from the creators often leave me opened mouthed (in shock) at the stark promises and assurances that are offered, so readily. Many of these claims and ‘cures’ can carry hefty fees, where you have to part with significant amounts of money in order to benefit from these ‘treatments’.
Social media algorithms show tailored advertisements based on content viewed and interacted with regularly by the user. It is completely understandable that if you are struggling with something, you want that something gone. You want it to be fixed and you want it fixed as quickly as humanly possible…………. Of course you do. You are human and a lot of us exist in cultures where any feeling of ill at ease, or dis-ease has been labelled as something terrible, something that we ‘don’t do’ and should eliminate as soon as possible (hello there, internalised shaming). It is understandable again, that individuals buy into these treatments and promises of freedoms and joy filled lives.
Such programs and ‘fixes’ might have amazing results. Individuals may buy the content, absorb the information and feel the best that they have ever felt before. They may ‘work’ for them and if that is the case, I am delighted for whomever feels this way.
For some people however, they might follow the words of the creators, waiting with bated breath for the next nugget of wisdom they instil upon them, lapping up details of how they ‘should’ live their lives, completely engaging with the newness of it all, paying readily for more information, more workshops, more content, more anything. They might become enveloped in the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘shouldn’ts’, become wholly externally focused and live their lives in the ways that someone else has told them to.
And what happens then? What about if that doesn’t work out, in the long run? What if the promises don’t come true?
Things to consider
You are your own best friend, your own expert. When seeking support and discussion or interaction with any groups or individuals that appear in social media scrolling, you might benefit from asking yourself these questions:
What do I know about this person/people/group?
Are they qualified to be able to offer me anything?
Have I seen evidence of qualifications, or can I see them, should I want to?
Are they professional? (If they are, they should be accountable for their actions and behaviours).
Are they confidential and how do I know this?
Are they an ethical practitioner and how do I know this?
What do they do with my information, if I have to provide them with any?
Are the meetings that we have secure? How do I know?
Do they have a complaints procedure, and have they told me what that is?
Do I feel empowered by them and able to be myself?
Do I feel supported?
Do I feel at ease?
Do I feel seen and heard?
Can I be authentic and show the real me?
How much money are they asking from me and do I feel that what I am receiving is worth it?
It is so important, particularly if you are struggling with something, to attempt to ensure that the support that you are engaging with feels right for you and that the person or people that you are involved with, or seeking such support from, are confident, able and qualified to stand alongside you.
Remember, you are your own expert. You know yourself better than anyone else and deep down, you know what feels right and good and true for you.
PS. Anyone telling you they can ‘cure you’ feels like a red flag, for me.
PPS. Anyone telling you they can fix you’ does too. You aren’t broken; you’re just human.