Mental health and social media: Lead by example

mental health and social media

When Instagram removed its like counter, reactions were mixed, to say the least. Psychology professionals were quick to approve the move, citing a potentially beneficial impact on the relationship between mental health and social media. 

Avid users were less welcoming of the decision. Model Mikaela Testa’s video response went viral— bagging her priceless earned media headlines in the process. Described by some publications as a ‘meltdown’, it’s an extreme example of the acute mental health problems social media has long been known to trigger. 

The public has been selling its ‘best life’ online since the rise of social media in the first years of this century. The vast majority of people only share updates and anecdotes that help others shape an impression of them they control. Idyllic holiday snaps, videos from crazy nights out and pruned and primed portraiture masked as ‘just out of bed’ chic. 

Research suggests couples who share the most about their great relationships online are = more prone to having problems behind the scenes. Photos taken from the other side of the influencer’s camera reveal how staged many images are. And the lengths people go to in a bid to develop idealised personas. 

Last month we introduced a new social network being testing by Google, Shoelace. The post looks at the FOMO phenomenon— Fear Of Missing Out. Social can cause a spike in anxiety when people see what others have been doing and compare those edited Best Lives to their own everyday existence. 

Now let’s look at modern brands. Although marketing and PR are forms of controlling an organisation’s identity, transparency is now expected. The public demands honesty and integrity. Any deviation from this is often outed, with serious repercussions. It’s hypocritical, then, for social media users not to adhere to the same rules with their own accounts.

There could be dozens of reasons for this. A predisposition to overlook our own flaws, while being happy to shine a light on those of others, is an obvious cause. The general distrust of big business, the media and politics means we hold these sectors more accountable than we do other members of the public. It’s hypocritical, but a truth nonetheless. 

Like the networks themselves, brands have a responsibility to promote a more transparent approach to social use among the public. Part of this comes down to leading by example, but that’s just for starters. Running campaigns that encourage honesty and genuine openness could help enormously. It’s time for a wholesale change to how we use social media, and you’re either part of the solution or adding to our problems.


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