Do the online conversations help?

At the beginning of this year, YouTube vlogger Trisha Paytas had a public mental breakdown, which was documented through her YouTube channel. Paytas has disclosed that she suffers from a few mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, but many commenters were insistent that she is lying and that her videos depicted a performance that was purely driven by the desire to cultivate attention.

As I am not a psychiatric or psychological professional myself, I am unable to comment about the genuineness of her mental illnesses (if any), but I did find some of discussions in the comment sections very interesting. Regardless of what was said about her psychological state, many people were coming forward and talking about psychological issues, some reflecting on their own battles with them.

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TALKING: A screenshot of a feed of comments that followed Paytas’ video “how i’m feeling today

It made me wonder about the visibility of mental illness and whether this effects our real-life attitudes and stigmas towards them. Social medias are often critiqued for being a window-shop display for our best and most dazzling life events, but what about the corners that are candid about the ‘uglier’ moments?

Two weeks ago, I briefly reflected on how forums offer us the opportunity to speak out and learn more about experiences with mental illness. Today, I would like consider open spaces that are not traditionally used to expand our knowledge on mental illness. By this, I include YouTube vloggers who make confession-style videos about their mental illnesses, cartoons that contribute to the conversation and social media campaigns such as the #InsideOutChallenge and #TalkAboutIt.

A few weeks ago my partner and I attended my Christmas staff party. After dinner I experienced an anxiety attack and we decided to leave. I chose to disappear quietly without drawing much attention to myself. I spent the rest of the night holding on to my partner and crying, mentally battling the anxiety until it went away. The next day I was incredibly worried that my workmates were going to question my quick disappearance. I asked my partner what to say when faced with these questions, and without much thought she said to say that I had a headache. I agreed but quickly questioned my decision. Why did I have to be ashamed and lie about my anxiety attack? So many wonderful and amazing people suffer from the same mental illnesses that I do on a daily basis. Why can’t we just talk about it openly? This experience along with many others inspired my “Inside Out Challenge”. Mental illness shouldn’t have to be hidden away, let’s start to talk about it. ❤️ #endthestigma #letstalkaboutit _______________________________________________ PRODUCTS USED: @katvondbeauty “Shade+Light Eye” palette + @morphebrushes 35P palette, @nyxcosmetics @nyxcosmetics_canada black liquid liner, @limecrimemakeup “Fetish” velvetine, @hudabeauty “Scarlett” lashes, @kryolanofficial Aqua colours palette _______________________________________________ #kvdlook #katvondbeauty #morphebrushes #morphe35b #nyxcosmetics #kryolan #kryolanprofessionalmakeup #limecrime #limecrimemakeup #makeup #instamakeup #bellletstalk #beauty #instabeauty #mua #makeupartist #makeupaddict #makeupbyme #mentalhealth #anxiety #selflove #positivevibes #insideoutchallenge #mentalillness #instagood #instamood #motd

A post shared by YASAMAN GHEIDI (@lilmoonchildd) on Jan 10, 2017 at 5:47pm PST

 

Speaking about mental health on the internet argumentatively manifest into 2 different streams. The first is the Tumblr-esque stream, in which having mental illness is glamorised and depicted as being quite lovely (in a fragile kind of way). In these streams, some people may see their experiences with mental illness as superior and belittle – or even negate – others’ experiences. The other stream encapsulates the conversations that are aimed at promoting knowledge of and destigmatising mental illnesses. Being online sometimes offers an anonymity that many people find comforting and a sense of isolation may be eased through these interactions.

But is it making a difference? YouTube vlogger Rebecca Brown told The Guardian that, although a lot of conversation surrounding mental illness is being generated online, this did not make a difference in the stigmatisation of these mental illnesses in ‘real life’. The fact that many people still find it difficult to talk to people about their experiences offline suggests that Brown may have a point.

For Howl & Echoes, Susie Garrard wrote that while it social media may provide us an intimate look into the lives – and experiences of mental illnesses – of celebrities and public figures. This could help prevention or destabilising myths about what kinds of people suffer from various mental illnesses. However, more often, it leads to a mass scrutiny and speculation of how certain individuals ‘demostrate’ or ‘perform’ mental illnesses. That is certainly what I saw in Paytas’ case.

In an article about the complex relationship between having a presence on social media and experiencing mental illness, Shon Faye cautions that using social media platforms to be candid these experience may put you at risk of ‘oversharing’. ‘Oversharing’, she explains further, is a phrase that is laden with political connotations – the dominant discourses surrounding race and gender declare who is being rational and who is considered to be mad.

As a result, being candid about your experiences may not yield the transformation or resolution that you would like it to. Additionally, she heeds that “when you’re living inside mental illness, constructing and then proffering your own pain for consumption may come at further cost to your wellbeing” due to being “part creator, part consumer” when we exist online.

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