Twitter: A Help or Hindrance to Mental Health?

by - 13:00

Social media can be used in a number of ways to talk about mental health and I think I would, at some point, like to explore how different platforms can have a different effect, but today I'm going to focus on Twitter and what I've engaged in and observed in terms of mental health.

The types of people I've observed on Twitter, documenting their own experience/journey of mental health, vary greatly. I understand that, the same as in real life, everyone will have their own coping mechanisms, and these often translate to our behaviour on Twitter. When it comes to personal health, however, it's understandable to want to deal with it in whichever way you feel will help you best.

Having had my own experiences with dealing with mental health on Twitter and observing how others do the same, I have come to categorise different types of tweeters into four groups, and both styles of tweeting can be applied generally or just in terms of mental wellbeing. These categories are in no way meant to be derogatory and no one type is better than the other, it is just people's way of expressing how they're feeling and documenting their own journey towards (hopefully) better mental health.

The Sharer
Someone who likes to tweet about how they're feeling and why, usually with details. Things can get quite personal sometimes and tweets are generally written in an honest fashion, sometimes making those reading it feel as though they are talking to a friend. 

The Joker
Someone who is aware of how they're feeling and chooses to convey it in a tweet with a jokey or sarcastic tone to it. They can almost stand apart from themselves and see the way they're feeling, and both experience it personally and observe it as a kind of 3rd party.

The Observer
Someone who chooses not to share too much detail and tweets in a more formal fashion; expressing their feeling without adding too much emotion, and often with a positive note to end on, even if they aren't feeling particularly positive themselves.

The Silent One
Someone who rarely, if ever, tweets something related to their own mental health. They may like others tweets on the subject and potentially re-tweet something related to how their feeling, but they prefer to keep their thoughts to themselves when it comes to mental well  being.

If I'm honest, I definitely used to be a big 'Sharer', maybe even an 'Over-Sharer'. I would often write cryptic, downbeat tweets when I wasn't feeling great but since this wasn't a regular occurence, they would mostly disappear in among my multiple other daily tweets. I wouldn't say I was looking for any kind of attention by doing this, but I know that some people like to be reassured by others and find solace in having other people to relate to, so they frequently share their current mood.

If you're reading this and find yourself falling into one or all of these groups of people, it doesn't mean that you are any better or worse at dealing with mental health, and no one type of person deserves to feel better over another. I can definitely say that I've been all of these types of person at some point, and I'm still figuring out which type works best for me when it comes to expressing mental health on social media.

So, the big question: does any of these help us to improve our mental health? Or is it causing more harm than good?

In short:  Ithink it's helping. Social media, for all the hate it gets, has actually come a long way in showing people that they aren't alone, in any respect, and when it comes to mental health it's allowing people to connect and help each other. Whatever you are experiencing in terms of mental illness, chances are that somebody else has experienced it too, and with many young people feeling the same pressures of modern life it's great that we have a platform where we can find each other and express ourselves (if we want to.)

What I have experienced is that, when I'm having a fragile day - as I've come to call it - I can find myself drawing a lot of strength from social media: it distracts me from overthinking, it uplifts me with its content and it reminds me that I'm not alone. One downside, however, is coming across tweets from somebody who is tweeting about a bad day for them which can sometimes have a negative effect on me.

I understand that for some people, including me, writing things down when they're not feeling great can help to clear their mind and get it out of their system. But I have found that, when I read these outlets of emotion (usually anxiety or stress), it can trigger the same feelings within me, as I can relate to how they're feeling or sympathise with them.

Perhaps this is something I need to deal with on my own, but it did make me wonder whether, if you always document negative feelings in a public way, it can make it more difficult to focus on the positives. Or does it mean that you have, by sending that tweet, expelled some negativity and can make more room for positivity? I'd be interested to know what you think, so please let me know in the comments below.

I really hope I haven't offended anyone here, I understand how difficult having a mental health issue can be (having experienced a great deal of anxiety on varying levels myself) and I honestly believe that, so long as you aren't hurting anyone else, you should do whatever is necessary to make yourself feel better. 

Sending peace and positivity,

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