By Prachi Mahima
The famous Australian singer Troye Sivan once tweeted, “To those who struggle with real mental health issues: I am so sorry you have to watch people try turn them into a fashion trend”. For the past few years, social media has been on its zenith and it has become a platform where one can present a customised version of their lives.
To those who struggle with real mental health issues: I'm so sorry you have to watch people try turn them into a fashion trend
— troye 7 (@troyesivan) January 13, 2014
Every now and then, as I am scrolling through numerous social media feeds, I come across various pictures that aim to capture the “beauty” of mental illnesses with underlying captions promoting a wrong perception of serious illnesses. A picture of a burning cigarette in black and white coupled with a quote about how life is too stressful instantly makes it a preferred choice in any defined stressful scenario. What is striking about this toxic trend is that it changed me at the most tender phase of one’s life- teenage without me even realising it was a wide set trend affecting almost everyone.
These ideas of suffering, pain and damage masked behind some poetic pictures along with the attention it entailed appealed to my psyche and made masochism prevail. Harbouring all the negativity even when nothing is wrong really became a force of habit because people only notice when you are struggling.
This idea has become the reality of the majority of youth across the globe. What does it mean exactly? We are beings of a post-modern age where technology and science govern our life. We are one touch away from people, surpassing all the geographical boundaries which exist in between, thanks to social media. This has given us the liberty to put forth our opinions and ideas in front of a larger audience. Due to hyper-connectivity media trends spread like wildfire and promote the romanticisation of all the wrong ideas.The ideas of depression, pain and anxiety have a poetic essence for the youth of the post-modern era and social media is playing a great role in its task of making it a trend worldwide. Words like heartbreak, anxiety, depression which screamed for help before, now strike an aesthetic string inside us.
Dr. Mark Reinecke, chief psychologist at Northwestern Memorial hospital, remarked that, “During the vulnerable years during which adolescents seek out self-affirmation and recognition from others, this new easy promise of being recognised as strong, beautiful and mysterious by “followers” can be very tempting”.
Scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and several other popular social media apps, one frequently comes across posts with captions like “barely surviving” and “on the brink of a mental breakdown” making the idea of suffering seem hauntingly beautiful as it brings some meaning to the already mundane lives. A research conducted in 2010 on the same topic revealed that 34% of teens faked depression only to look cool. The people who actually suffer from anxiety, depression and other sorts of mental issues do not have control over it, it is not a choice. However, we see that people are now attributing terms like depression and pain to anything that goes wrong in their daily routine like if they are unable to perform well in academic tests or were unable to get their favourite coffee in the morning. It is important to understand that mental illness such as depression are not the mere feeling of being sad. It is a hormonal imbalance which goes on for a long time and which calls for medical help as the ones actually suffering cannot just get out of the trap of negative thoughts on their whim.
How it negatively impacts day to day activities
As an extension of promoting this idea of beautiful suffering, youngsters are now indulging in practices which affect their health negatively. Among these practices are insomnia, alcohol abuse and smoking all of which gained popularity in the 1950s as well and became a symbol of class and intellect for men and women. Most of us claim that we indulge in these practices on account of all the stress we have in our life but truthfully for most of us it is just a minor setback in our endeavours which can be handled easily with some counselling and self-effort.
In this fast-paced and social media driven world, we constantly seek acceptance and acknowledgement. With such romanticised notions around, we make them our reality so we are not left out of the crowd. However, the truth is that suffering is not beautiful and it is a daily struggle for the ones who are actually experiencing it. Hence, this new trend is stealing attention from those who actually require it and needs to be patiently analysed by each one of us. The poetry of life is much more beautiful if it paints a happy picture and we do not need to be a tragedy to be a success.
Prachi Mahima is a writing analyst at Qrius.
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