Social media is home to numerous platforms where users can voice their opinions, share posts and create content. Social media is also home to unrealistic expectations and standards that are harmful for an individual’s mental health.
Large apps like TikTok, Instagram and Twitter have increasingly contributed to the romanticism of mental health. Mental illnesses, like depression and anxiety, are not black and white. Social media has contributed to the stigmas and stereotypes, by glorifying these health issues. Small inconveniences such as having one bad day or experiencing slight anxiousness around a new group of people have become the media’s interpretation of ‘reality.’ Unfortunately, these realities become a trend, allowing younger audiences to feel invalidated as if their struggles do not appear the same.
It’s not very ‘’trendy’’ to lack motivation or suffer with extreme anxiety. Small things like brushing your teeth can become a chore and crippling anxiety can consume you. Yet, these serious and very ugly symptoms of illnesses, like depression and anxiety disorder, are romanticized on multiple platforms. There have been numerous memes, tweets and TikToks that have made mental illnesses seem lighthearted and mainstream to have; with users citing every minor inconvenience as a breaking point of their mental stability and mocking those who struggle.
This is inherently dangerous because it damages the credibility of someone who could really be struggling. It pokes fun at the behavior of individuals with severe symptoms of mental illnesses. It also perpetuates stigmas from users, the majority of whom are teenagers, who are not educated about these illnesses. These users have determined that self-diagnosis is more credible than an actual medical one. This is all really rooted in the fact that society doesn't view mental and emotional health in the same light as they would physical illnesses.
A quiz that “claimed” to diagnose a user’s mental state in about 15 minutes went viral on Tiktok in late November. The quiz was a 15 minute survey based on a questionnaire that determines one’s current mental state, and recommends a treatment program based on the results.
As helpful as the questionnaire would seem, it can only go so far into understanding a user’s mental health. There’s still a very long path towards any true diagnosis but using social media as a means for any credible medical diagnosis should never be considered. Especially because anyone can pretend to be anything online and false information spreads incredibly quickly and mental health is romanticized.
Depression, anxiety and body dysmorphia have been stigmatized and then romanticized long before the rise TikTok. Hollywood has a long history of doing this, and other social media platforms predating TikTok, like Tumblr, have come under fire for promoting eating disorders and self-harm.
Dangerous stigmas seem to stem from the notion that many mental illnesses are unknown, hard to diagnose and often difficult to point out specific symptoms. As difficult as it may be, society should break the barriers and take mental illnesses more seriously.
Mental illnesses need to stop being glorified and romanticized on social media. It’s extremely damaging to younger audiences, like teenagers and young adults. However, it’s the most damaging to those who are silently struggling with an undiagnosed illness but are afraid to seek help because society would not take their struggles seriously.
Tre Spencer is a freshman studying photojournalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Tre know by tweeting him @trerspencer1.