Across my social media, friends and acquaintances are encouraging people to share their mental health challenges, to reveal their stories of depression and anxiety. I suppose it’s an effort to destigmatize these issues, as well as to show people who aren’t as comfortable sharing publicly that they aren’t alone, that others have similar challenges.
While I support the effort to destigmatize mental health issues, I also think that it is irresponsible to suggest that encouraging people to talk about their depression on social media, in such a public forum, will somehow help those who need help the most.
In the face of the passing of Anthony Bourdain, a seemingly strong man who most fans never would’ve expected to suffer so egregiously as to take his own life, I’ve even seen people recommend that we all check in on our strongest friends to make sure they’re okay.
Here’s the problem.
The conversation we need to have is about how we’re all connected…or not connected. We think that because we see in our social media feed that Jane just got a new job, or Toby’s kid went to preschool for the first time, or Alice went to Tahiti on vacation, because we know “what’s going on” in each other lives, that we know who’s okay and who isn’t. But we are wrong.
The research tells us again and again that social media is a giant series of lies that we tell each other. Social media is all about the facade – showing your best life, putting your best foot forward, showing only the beautiful parts of our life – so that no one knows what we’re really facing.
And yet, the research also tells us that, even though we know it’s all a bunch of lies, when we scroll through our Facebook feed, we get depressed, because we’re comparing what we perceive as someone’s amazing, perfect, happy life to our life, with our knowledge of all the bumps and bruises and frustrations and fears and ugly crying that happen in our life, failing to recognize that these are all things that also happen in an amazing, happy life, but nobody’s sharing them.
What if we decided to actually connect on social media?
What if, instead of posting all the good and beautiful parts of our life (and the occasional angry political post), we shared the real stuff, too? What if when we were having a horrible day, we just said so? “I’m having a horrible day today. I just wanted someone to know.” or “I’m having a horrible day today, and I could use some support.” What would that look like? Would anyone ever do it? Would the strongest among us have the courage to be vulnerable?
I say…maybe we would. Maybe knowing that we don’t have to be perfect in social media would make the difference. Maybe if the strongest among us do have the courage to be vulnerable and say, “I might seem strong, but I’m not perfect. #IStruggleToo” and share our truths, then others would feel safer sharing their struggles as well.
Are you brave enough to share?
If #MeToo could start a new conversation about the way we think about relationships and how men treat women (and more), then why couldn’t a hashtag start a new conversation about the way we relate to each other, how we connect to one another? I guess the real question is, why aren’t we creating tribes, villages, pods, whatever you want to call it? Why don’t we have small communities where we look out for each other?
Don’t you think if we each had a tribe, we’d know when one of us was faltering, and we’d catch that person before s/he fell? Don’t you think if we had a small community, we’d be able to look out for one another?
We all struggle. It’s time to stop being inauthentic and false and to begin to authentically, truly, deeply connect with each other and share your struggle.
So today I share my truths on social media. It’s not about “life is all struggle.” Far from it. It’s that life is beautiful, magical, messy, tragic, painful, and glorious, and it includes some struggle. We’re great at sharing the beautiful, magical, and glorious part. Let’s get good at sharing the rest.