The idea of beautiful teen tragedy is nothing new. Romeo and Juliet are often taught to teenagers, who were pioneers in romanticizing suicide long before it became trendy on the internet. But, the rise of social media has glorified mental illness to a point that even after living in the most connected times in history, depression and anxiety cases are at an all-time high.

So, how is social media glorifying mental illness? What are the repercussions? And is there any way to stop it?

Mental Illness and Social Media

Mental illness comes in many different conditions including schizophrenia, depression, OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, anxiety, as well as eating disorders. Autism, Dyslexia, and even addictions are though intellectual also falls under the category of mental illness.

Still, in many parts of the world, mental illness is treated less lethal than any physical illness. Though, now with the rise of the internet, people are understanding the severity of mental illnesses and becoming educated about their causes and effects. But social media surely is running the race backward.

Users on social media platforms, especially TikTok, have long romanticized the concept of mental illness. We are living in the era of Sad Online, which has been defined by a sense of reverse FOMO, JOMO (the Joy of Missing Out), and labeled as social anxiety as the cost of being cool. It may be just as performative to constantly share our sadness or anxiety on social media as the #posivibes self-care movement that is starting to seem lame.

Today, emotional distress has become the marketing game of many must-follow accounts across every platform. Whether be it anxiety or depression relatability or commenting the obligatory “same” on mental illness glorifying Instagram posts.

Mental Illness: The New Trend

Also, social media campaigns have flooded the market encouraging people to talk openly about mental health. As a hive mind, social media users have flocked to share their own emotional struggles in hopes of normalizing, destigmatizing, and relating to them. However, in our haste, we might have forgotten that there is a fundamental and vital difference between sad feelings and mental illness symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.

According to a 2017 study on social media and mental health; many users label their nervousness as anxiety and their sadness as depression when in reality they don’t even remotely reflect any of the psychological problems. The more healthy people believe they are depressed, the more connected they become to these glamorized postings, thereby worsening the problem.

Even within ourselves, what is authentic and what is performance has become increasingly blurred due to social media. It might feel more authentic to post about our upsetting vibes, but for some, it could just be an expression of fitting in.

Depression & Anxiety

According to a recent study by Pew Research, 7 out of 10 teens identify depression and anxiety as the biggest problems their friends and peers face. A study by the medical journal JAMA revealed a dramatic increase in suicide rates among Americans aged 15-24.

Source: Liyah Teraine Tumblr

One in five Americans, according to the CDC, suffer from mental illness in a single year. According to the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety and depression have been on the rise among boomers in recent years.

Approximately a third of American adults use the internet as part of their medical diagnosis. It’s possible you could end up completely off-target when you consult Dr. Google, even if it could help identify what you’re dealing with. In one TikTok trend, Center City psychiatrist P. Joseph Resignato noticed users self-diagnosing. According to Resignato, these videos can start a conversation, but they should never replace a clinical diagnosis by a doctor or therapist.

Depression and anxiety are at an all-time high – or at least talking about it more freely than ever before. But, the trendiness of the sad online culture could also lead to false self-diagnosis and oversimplification of serious illnesses.

Eating Disorder

Teens and even adults suffering from body image issues due to social media have been in the news for a long time. But, for people with an unhealthy relationship with food, social media is not the right place to be. The primary reason behind the normalization of eating disorders is the unrealistic beauty standards that are being glorified by the widely spread social networks.

Source: Not-Skinny-Enough Tumblr

Numerous studies have shown that using Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and other social media platforms puts teen girls at a higher risk of developing an eating disorder. According to Facebook’s own research, an estimate of 32% of its teen girl users testifies that they were already not feeling good about their bodies, and Instagram has pushed them over the verge.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, social media users and creators alike are slowly coming to understand the repercussions of following trends within an internet culture that is sad. In order to combat glamorizing content, Instagram banned known problematic hashtags such as #proana (pro-anorexia) and highlighted #socialanxiety posts about seeking help as opposed to buying clothes. Although Tumblr is close to disappearing, it is also implementing support pages and resources for anyone searching #suicide to combat its loose policies.

We might be able to rein ourselves in again by changing the social media culture that led to the spiral out of control. Especially in the virtual world, users adapt to new environments naturally and try to build a safer environment that suits all of us.