Monday, 4 November 2013

Anxiety, Depression and Social Media

Bit of a different post today, but I felt like writing.

I've been seeing a lot of videos on anxiety and depression and how to deal with it around lately, and it's truly eye-opening. Loads of people seem to be suffering from similar things that I experience on a daily basis, and I find it inspirational watching a lot of people talk about their own experiences. But, obviously, as it is first and foremost a psychological disease, I think there have been some negative effects of it being broadcast so widely and by influential people.

I'm not meaning to be cynical, not at all. I think people genuinely trying to offer advice to other sufferers is a fantastic thing and they should completely be commended. I think it's the inadvertent knock-on effect of having influential people, with a young, impressionable audience, posting videos and making it known that they have a flaw. Take Zoella's video for example:

Now, I think Zoe seems like a lovely person - I watch her videos regularly, even though I'm not really that interested in fashion etc. because she appears genuine, down-to-earth and honest. She's just won the Vlogger of the Year at the BBC Radio Teen Choice, for example. Her audience, as demonstrated by her award, is largely female, 10-16 year old girls. After her video, a shock of responses, videos, blog posts and tweets immediately appeared declaring how inspirational she was, how a lot of these girls were experiencing depression, cutting themselves, and how she was a light at the end of the tunnel. Again, I commend her for sharing such a personal thing, and I found it motivating myself, but at the same time, I think the effects were both positive and negative.

Taking as an example the #cut4bieber scandal, where several young people, predominately girls, jumped on the twitter tagwagon and began to actually take pictures of themselves self-harming. This tag, besides being awful, turned self-harm from a genuine addiction into an attention-seeking joke. I have never self-harmed, but I believe there are people who suffer with severe depression and do it regardless of anyone else's influence, and certainly not for the public eye. In the same way, anxiety and depression have almost become 'popular'. I don't doubt that a lot of the people that say they are suffering online genuinely do have symptoms, and do feel sad, but my point is this: how much of it is assimilated?

I get panic attacks, and I know that if I read about the symptoms of a panic attack, I can convince myself, psychologically, to have one, because I know I'm capable of having them, and I start to feel the symptoms that I'm reading. In the same way that a hypochondriac would look at the symptoms of a disease and psychologically convince themselves that they were suffering from it. 

All of this attention drawn to mental illness, I think, can convince some teenagers, or subliminally encourage them, to make themselves sad, to effectively think their way into the illness. It might begin as a way to live up to their idol, and turn into something horrible and life-changing. 

And this, in turn, has a negative effect on society's view of these diseases, because it suddenly becomes a superficial, made up, crowd-sourced, popular 'thing', as opposed to the genuine problem that it is for so many people. Doctors, still, don't always take it as seriously as they should, and this I think might be exacerbating the problem.

Just something I was thinking about recently. 
I'll stop being opinionated now and get back to drawing, promise.


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