Q: “How are you doing?”
A: “I’m good, yourself?”
I’m sure that this short exchange is quite familiar to all of us. Whether you’re asking the question or answering it, this dialogue has become automatic in our daily lives. Yet, it often contributes to a façade concealing how we are actually “doing.”
So why do we say, “I’m good” even if we’re not? It’s just generally what you say, a social convention.
Breaking social conventions is one thing that social media does best. In my experience, most young people admit that social media sites have become their main source for news and general information/updates. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, among others, have become a hub for the exchanging of information and communication.
It’s obvious that our exponential reliance on social media has negative consequences on our wellbeing. It can make us isolated, deteriorate our interpersonal skills, cultivate cyber-bullying and unrealistic expectations of ourselves and of society, as well as spread incorrect or harmful information. However, the virtual world has positive side effects as well.
Take the recent movement to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. The fact that online communication creates a barrier/buffer between parties creates a more comfortable environment for individuals to share their personal struggles. People can take time to compose their statements and reactions before posting them (unlike in-person relations), and they have the ability to easily opt-out of interactions.
It’s hard to know who to approach about mental illness inquires or issues because there’s a lot of shame surrounding it, and for the most part, it’s invisible. But social media can be an extremely effective place to seek help.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association website, “Researchers estimate that as many as one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness at some point in their life.”
On Facebook, you can search any type of mental illness and get instantly connected with a group of other people dealing with specifically that issue. Often these groups consist of posts of encouragement, stories of overcoming, advice and resources, or just discussion.
In my experience, it can be earth shattering (seriously) to discover others who are “in the same boat.”
In many ways, social media can build barriers between people and inhibit genuine communication. However, I know that the opposite is true as well. I have connected, and had invaluable conversations with people via social media on the basis of mental illness that never would have been possible without such networks.
Myths about mental illness (2016). In Canadian Mental Health Association . Retrieved November 10, 2016, from http://www.cmha.ca/mental_health/myths-about-mental-illness/#.WCVDacZVikq
Not alone [Online image]. Retrieved November 10, 2016 from http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/files/2015/10/Not-Alone-300×225.jpeg