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Hidden Benefits of Social Media

In the age of the Internet, it seems that most people are aware of social media’s negative effects. FOMO (fear of missing out), among other things, is a well-known, unpleasant side effect of having a presence on social media — it’s so real a phenomenon that it’s even been defined by Merriam Webster.

However, scientists and ordinary people alike have been speculating that social media can actually be an incredibly resourceful tool for those who struggle with mental illnesses.

In this article, we will uncover certain benefits of social media that you might not have thought of before, including:

  • Being a space for teens struggling with mental illnesses
  • Providing a source for non-stigmatized learning
  • Helping individuals to find a community

A space for teens

two teens standing next to each other and holding each other

According to a 2018 report on the year’s social media usage, some “88% of 18- to 29-year-olds indicate they use any form of social media.”

Additionally, it is estimated that mental health problems affect 10-20% of children and adolescents worldwide.

So when adolescents scroll through their YouTube feed and watch celebrities such as Anna Akana, John Green, Orion Carloto (and so many more) talk about mental illness openly, it creates a sense of safety for teens to discuss their own mental health in a similar way.

Non-stigmatized learning

Almost any kind of information is readily accessible by way of the Internet. In wanting to learn more about a certain topic, e.g. mental health, individuals may do as little as do a Google search for “oversleeping + sadness” to going to their public library to do a little more in-depth research on computers.

Either way, these methods of acquiring information are easy, accessible, confidential, and without stigma.

If you are not familiar by way of any personal experiences with mental health stigma (MHS), you need look no further than this study on its effects. These researchers consider MHS to be “the result of a complex social cognitive process,” which results in “prejudice and discriminating behavior” against people perceived to be mentally ill.

On the Internet,  individuals need not feel the pressure of this stigma in searching for help and treatment.

Self-education may even boost the likelihood of individuals struggling with mental illness to seek help, since fewer than half of all individuals living with a diagnosable mental illness seek treatment.

Finding a community

Most of all, feeling heard is an amazing benefit of putting yourself out there on social media to talk about mental health and why struggling with mental illness is so hard.

Many voices, such as Geraldine Walsh, found it extremely difficult to face the fact that they did, indeed, struggle with mental illnesses: “I suffered as many do, in silence – alone, unnecessarily,” says Walsh. MHS and other social boundaries, unfortunately, prevent individuals from feeling as if they can tell their story.

Thanks to social media, sharing personal experiences seems so much less intimidating, because a) individuals do not face each other in real life, and b) there are so many voices making noise about mental health at once.