Struggling With Mental Health? (How to Know if Social Media is the Answer)
If you're struggling with your mental health, is it appropriate to use social media to heal yourself?
Maybe that's not the right question to ask.
Maybe it's better to ask:
Is it helpful to use social media to heal yourself?
It's a loaded question with an overwhelming amount of nuanced answers.
Like anything in life, it depends on a person's unique life experiences and disposition.
Even more important, it depends on the types of challenges a person is facing--and what they hope to achieve by posting on social media.
I have been posting about mental health on social media--mainly on Twitter--for a few years now.
For me, the mental community on Twitter is overwhelmingly supportive, and I am inspired, on a daily basis, by the tweets I read.
I can engage on Twitter in a way that, I feel, is authentic and poetic.
Twitter lends itself well to a kind of sing-song, poetic feel. It's a way of thinking and being that feels true for who I am.
Still, when I share my mental health story and struggle on Twitter--and on Facebook, Intsagram and on my mental health site, Nerve 10--I do so with certain rules.
1. I don't post about anything that I have not yet fully processed for myself.
I do this for a few reasons. One, it helps me avoid getting triggered by others. If I have not yet processed a mental health challenge--and then I go ahead and post about it--I set myself up for failure.
One of the beautiful--and potentially disastrous--things about social media is its open and chaotic nature.
Nothing can be controlled.
And because nothing can be controlled, anything can happen.
Here's a hilarious (and frustrating) recent example. I tweeted this the other day:
Innocuous enough, right?
Here's the first response I got.
Replying to @JPBrown5
I just mean that life’s gotta be pretty good for you to say that’s a sad thing let alone the saddest
Of course, I never once considered that my fortune cookie mishap could suggest I have dripping disdain for marginalized populations, but, if you look at it a certain way, IT COULD.
This is the dangerous part about social media. It is not a matter of if someone will take something the wrong way, it is a matter of when.
If you yourself have not yet processed something that is currently deleterious to your mental health--and then you go ahead and post about it on social media--you expose yourself to those lurking few who will misinterpret your statements.
And it takes thicker and thicker skin to thrive on social media the more attention you garner.
Which leads me to my second rule.
2. I will not get into petty arguments on social media.
I rarely use Facebook anymore because I think it has devolved into an attention-grabbing wasteland, and the Facebook algorithm seems to favor only the severely insecure with too much time on their hands.
A few weeks ago, a Facebook "friend" made a statement on his post that he only expected to receive well-thought-out arguments in response to the question he posed.
He was disappointed when this was not the case.
I commented: "Expecting carefully thought out arguments on Facebook is like going to a Taco Bell and expecting to be able to order some nice lasagna." It got a few "ha ha faces," and my ego got a little jolt of electricity.
I then shook my head and left Facebook for about a week.
I just won't have petty arguments on social media.
I'm sure you're wondering:
What exactly is a petty argument?
It's hard to say for sure--and it's made all the more difficult online because you lack the necessary social cues, such as body language, that you get when you have a face-to-face conversation.
It's when you post something that you feel is totally safe and innocuous--and then you get accused of hating an entire ethnic group.
It's when you offer your opinion--and then someone tells your you're being outrageous and starts calling you names.
I have never--not once--found it to be productive to engage in that kind of argument on social media
Instead, in response, I usually make a very plain statement that can't be misconstrued.
Something like: Thank you for the feedback. Or, "We are not going to agree here."
If I respond to the content of what the verbal jouster is saying, I'm going to lose. I'll get sucked in to their toxicity vortex.
But if I step aside from the comment and respond as if it didn't happen, I can sometimes jolt the person out of his or her negativity.
A negative person expects you to bite the hook. When you don't, it creates a sudden burst of space and increased awareness on their part.
But when things don't go according to plan, we have an opportunity.
We can wake up and learn from what happened.
Or, we can fall into our habitual patterns and whatever coping skills we use to deal with feeling uncomfortable.
The former path is the path of growth and--ultimately, I believe--feeling content with who you are.
Which brings me back to my initial question:
Is it helpful to use social media when you are struggling and in the process of trying to heal yourself?
And the ultimate cop-out answer that applies to more (almost all) of life than we would like to admit...
"It all depends."
1. If you're 12 months sober, and you've found a community on social media that holds you accountable, then using social media to heal might be a great idea for you.
2. But if you're dealing with personality issues--and part of the treatment plan you're working on with your therapist--is to not willingly put yourself in situations where you feel like you need to rely on others to validate certain thoughts or feelings, then maybe you need a social media break for a while.
It always, forever and ever, has to come back to you.
I love the rapid back and forth that the mental health community on Twitter provides me. I genuinely feel I'm in a place to handle it, even if there is the occasional irate, fortune-cookie person.
The good on Twitter far outweighs the bad for me.
But I couldn't have said the same thing five years ago.
And maybe my feelings will change five years from now.
I just don't know.
I often refer to one of my favorite quotes when I'm looking for guidance.
"Nothing endures but change." Heraclitus said that. He was one smart guy. Because he's absolutely right.
In the few minutes that you took to read this, you're not the same person you were when you started.
And that's a really good thing. It's an opportunity.
But what you decide to do with that is up to you.