Capitalised, Glamorised and Romanticised: Social Media’s Disregard For Mental Health

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The disregard of social media platforms for the posting and exchanging of triggering content is harmful: it wields a detrimental effect on both the mental and physical health of its users.

It is needless to say that the continuous growth of platforms and their users comes hand in hand with the inevitable increase in accounts willing to post and publicise potentially dangerous content. While we as a society grow more knowledgeable and understanding of mental health and its dangers, there still remains the large anomaly of those of us who find only glamour, romance and aesthetic in this caramelised misconception of suffering. As a result, many detrimental ideals are built around euphemised hopes of being ‘saved’ and ‘surviving’. This, undeniably, catalyses a growing desire amongst a range of vulnerable and impressionable youth willing to go to extremes to acquire this now made desirable aesthetic.  

Platforms such as Instagram and Tumblr, in particular, are largely at fault for allowing poisonous content which encourages and normalises issues such as eating disorders, self-harm, and suicide to remain on their sites. I myself have, on many occasions, come across graphic images of self-harm and posts making jokes about various mental health struggles that have been aestheticized so powerfully to the point of no return. Clothing brands such as ‘Pouty Girl’ have even capitalised off this new obsession with mental health, releasing a hoodie embroidered with the phrase “my anxieties have anxiety”. In allowing media platforms and clothing brands to allow this beautifying of mental health we are making its audiences want to struggle, without having to actually struggle. 

It is this widespread narrative that struggling at the hands of your mind is a personality trait worth acquiring that has set our efforts to teach about mental health millions of steps backwards. Rather than allowing for a growing understanding of these issues as being incredibly painful to deal with and impossible to throw away at the hands of a ‘saviour’, we allow for a belief that these feelings are something our users and our followers should want to feel and want to tweet or blog about. As a result, content and products as such continue to grow and publicise, thus becoming catalytically detrimental to many of its viewers and resulting in tragically unfortunate circumstances which most likely could have been avoided. 

Earlier this year, fourteen-year-old Molly Russell took her life after having been exposed to triggering and harmful content on Instagram regarding self-harm and suicide. As a result, her father accused Instagram of having “helped kill” her by not censoring and protecting its posts. Instagram, though claiming that it removes harmful posts as soon as they are detected, is entirely to blame for its inability to prioritise and thoroughly clear its platforms of harmful content. 

Instagram itself allows for its influencers to publicly promote diet products like meal replacement smoothies and appetite suppressant sweets: this is part of the problem. The sponsorship and funding that comes with this promotion are ostensibly more valuable than the impact they may have on viewers, and therefore, social media platforms choose to prey on the insecurities of their users and capitalise off their struggles. In pushing this paradigm of the ‘perfect body’, social media allows for a growth in mental health struggles and the desires of young people, in particular, to fit the norm, encouraging them to delve into this world of dieting and harmful eating habits. 

Not only have social media platforms failed us in their representation of mental health and its severity, but its influencers have also failed us in their disregard for their follower’s health and safety. Tumblr would apparently much rather spend time clearing its site of sexual images and videos rather than of injurious triggering content encouraging a desire for suffering and catalysing a growth in self harm and suicide. Instagram and Twitter continue, in failing to police detrimental posts resulting in a growth in eating disorders and self-harm, beautify and glamorise the idea of not wanting to eat, live, or be happy. 

Our social media platforms have, for too long now, allowed for a widespread romanticising of mental health issues. It is our responsibility as much as it is theirs to find ways to eliminate harmful posts and save our fellow users.  

Celine Basma