This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. It’s a time of heightened awareness for mental health and the number of ways it affects so many of us, which has thankfully been increasingly supported over the years.
One such area that always comes under scrutiny during this time is the effect social media has on our minds. The birth and rapid growth of social media over the last decade has established an entirely new medium for human interaction that none of us have experienced before, with platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp allowing us to stay globally connected 24/7.
While we’re still unsure how damaging social media really is to our mental health, we do know how addictive it can be. Social media addiction was recently described by Prince Harry – ironically after his new Instagram account broke a world record for the fastest time to gain 1 million followers on the platform – as potentially more addictive than alcohol and cigarettes, adding his belief that it was 'because it’s normalized and there are no restrictions to it.’
Social media addiction is a problem we must address presently, but the most positive element of discussions surrounding how socials are affecting our minds are the conversations influencers are opening up about mental health that we have never had before as a global community. Humans have always suffered from ill mental health, but never before has it been openly discussed on such a global scale as it is right now – and we have influencers to thank for that. Suddenly there is this incredible global platform being used by those with influential voices to talk about the way they feel, normalizing depressive or anxious behaviors and questioning how we might be able to help each other.
Take the World Record Egg for example - a mysterious viral campaign that was launched to break Kylie Jenner’s record for the most liked picture on Instagram, that garnered millions of followers in days and is now using its influence to talk about the importance of honesty and openness when it comes to discussing mental health. The egg “cracked” on Instagram after "feeling the pressure" of all the attention it received and shared the message that other people should seek help if they feel the same way. Frankie Bridge recently discussed her journey with Mental Health on the Verified Views podcast talking about her debut book ‘Open’ that explores her life growing up in the public eye and how that’s affected her mental health - this is another example of someone using their voice to make seriously positive change in the way we all discuss mental health, both online and off. Frankie talked about how she thought that if social media and the open discussions influencers are having surrounding mental health were existent when her anxiety was at its worst, she wouldn’t have had to be hospitalized.
Of course, the social space has a way to go in terms of implementing the right regulations to make platforms safer and less addictive, but the influencers who are bravely speaking out about their own experiences with ill mental health – like Elle Mills in her YouTube burnout video and Zoe Sugg’s brave honesty about her struggle with crippling anxiety – deserve to be recognized for the monumental paths they have forged towards changing the way the whole world talks about mental health.
Social media can affect our minds in a bunch of different ways, whether it’s FOMO we’re feeling or a lack of sleep from too much scrolling, so to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week, here are three simple tips to help you ensure you’re using the social space as safely as possible.
Follow The Right People and treat Instagram like your home. You wouldn’t invite people over who made you feel uncomfortable or lacking, so follow people who make you feel great. There are loads of influencers doing their bit to positively impact how we talk about mental health, but here are some of my favourites…
Lucy Sheridan: As a certified Comparison Coach (yup, that’s a thing), Lucy’s insta bio reads: ‘Screw comparison! Be less them & more you. Daily expert advice to help you find inner peace and go after your own success.’
Elyse Fox: Filmmaker, model, and mum-to-be, Elyse was inspired to create Sad Girls Club (@sadgirlsclubpbg) after struggling with crippling depression throughout her life. Based in Brooklyn, the organization aims to inspire millennials worldwide to have more conversations about mental health.
Matt Haig: It probably helps that Matt’s job is to write books about mental health, but his Instagram content is second to none. Every single day he manages to post something else that’s even more profound and grounding than the day before – an absolute must follow for feel good vibes.
Luke Ambler: Luke founded Andy’s Man Club (@andysmanclubuk) after his brother-in-law committed suicide. The group focuses on removing the stigma for men to talk about mental health, with the aim of halving the rate of male suicide. Luke started the worldwide trend ‘#ItsOkayToTalk’ by posting a photo of himself making an ‘ok’ symbol with his hands-on Instagram.
Lean In To Community: This is important because that’s what social was built for! Facebook’s mission statement is ‘to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.’ We’ve never had access to a global community like this before, so embrace the group hug and let people in.
Set Boundaries – around the time when you access your social media accounts. Turn off the little red ‘Push Notifications’ every now and then when you have space to breathe, so that consumption doesn’t negatively impact on your day-to-day life and mental health. When you’re offline, get outside and go for a walk or see friends - using social media mindlessly will only feed addiction and we all consume far too much blue light anyway! Also, electrical equipment in the bedroom is a big no-no. Maybe even try a digital detox once in a while, you’ll be surprised after a while at how little you crave a notification!