OPINION: Dealing with mental illness in a social media world

Photo credit: Augustine Ng

It’s Monday night and you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed one last time before you head to bed.

Suddenly, you scroll past a picture of a girl.

She looks to be about 100 pounds, tall, tan, and has perfect skin.

Why don’t you look like that? Your skin is flawed, you’re five-foot, two-inches tall with a curvy build—you’re definitely not 100 pounds.

You always want what you can’t have.

This happens to me almost every night, and with all the different platforms social media offers, it’s hard to avoid.

Social media is a tool that is constantly running in the background of our lives. With our constant need to share, retweet, like, and reblog, we are always connected.

I grew up in a generation where not having a social media account meant you were missing out on a lot of things.

We’ve evolved from Windows Live Messenger, or more commonly known as MSN, to apps like Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat.

I remember being in Grade 7 and coming home from a tiring day at school. The only thing I wanted to do was hop on MSN and talk to all my friends…that I had just been with 20 minutes ago.

Now that I take the time to think about it, nothing has changed. The only difference is that with the evolution of the smartphone, I don’t need to wait to get home to be connected. It’s around me all day, everyday.

I’ve always had problems when it comes to my mental health. My struggle with mental illness is not something that I openly talk about, but it has been part of my life for years.

Depression and anxiety have become so normal to me that I sometimes forget not everyone struggles with it the same way.

To a lot of people, it’s a foreign subject. Some will never know what it’s like to be so crippled by anxiety that you can’t move from your bed.

At times, I feel like I’m suffocating in my own sadness. I’m constantly beating myself up, telling myself that there is no reason for me to feel this sad all the time.

There are times where I can’t eat or sleep. I lay in bed and I stare at the walls because I can’t bring myself to do anything else.

Dealing with anxiety and depression are two of the hardest things I have ever faced.

Think of anxiety and depression being on two opposite ends of the spectrum.

With depression, I am always exhausted, both mentally and physically.

Although anxiety is also a vicious beast, it tends to hit me out of nowhere and takes the wind out of me every single time.

For me, depression involves never caring about anything at all, and anxiety is about caring way too much.

My relationship with social media is complicated. I don’t think that social media is the reason for my mental illnesses, but I do think that Instagram and Twitter have influenced how I see myself.

Would I still have issues with my mental health even if I was totally disconnected from the online world? Probably.

Would my issues with body image be as bad as they are if I wasn’t on social media? Probably not.  

It’s hard to be on Instagram and always feel like you must look a certain way. Even posting one simple picture comes with hours of anxiety.

I never feel comfortable in my own skin and there isn’t a day where I don’t look in the mirror and point out things I want to change. What I tell myself is that I’m not alone. I’m not the only one that struggles with posting their “real” self on platforms like Instagram. Right?


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