Oversharing Your Mental Illness Struggles on Social Media
Tuesday, November 14 2017 Rachel Miles
While social media can be a great outlet for raising mental health awareness, oversharing your mental illness struggles may attract unwanted stigma. Usually, this comes from people who already have preconceived, stigmatizing ideas about mental illness. Even so, oversharing your mental illness details online can actually generate more stigma. It turns out there may be a fine line between raising mental health awareness and oversharing your mental illness struggle.
Oversharing Your Mental Illness Can Create Self-Stigma
For a long time, I did not feel comfortable talking about my mental health—especially online. There is a tendency to only share the “highlight reel” of life events on much of social media. It didn’t seem like a place that was safe or appropriate to talk about my mental health struggles. However, as I realized that my mental illness wasn’t simply going to “go away” on its own, I began to realize the power of speaking about my experience.
Nowadays there is a large community of people who use social media as a platform for mental health advocacy. For many, social media can provide a supportive network to encourage them on the journey to recovery.
Nonetheless, there are downsides to oversharing about mental illness on social media. Sometimes it can lead people living with a mental health condition to build an unhealthy identity around their illness. This may cause feelings of self-stigma and disempowerment as those who struggle with mental health issues focus on how different or isolated they are from those without mental illness.
Using social media can also heighten the comparison game. Having a social media feed full of mental illness-focused content can result in judging oneself as either “sicker than” or “more recovered than” others that struggle.
How Can You Tell If You're Oversharing About Your Mental Illness?
I tend to worry about oversharing because I do not want to unconsciously reinforce negative stereotypes about mental illness. Sometimes I’m still not sure if I am oversharing when it comes to mental health, but it helps to ask myself a few simple questions when I am considering what to talk about.
For example: do my friends and followers really need to know every side-effect I am having on this new medication? Do they really need to know how many hours I did/didn’t sleep yesterday? Do they really need to know every negative thought that pops into my head?
This information may be a part of my mental health journey, but it is information that is more useful for my psychiatrist and therapist than for every single person I know. If I share things like this, I run the risk of saturating my friends’ feeds with a constant stream of negativity and private details—and that is not what fighting mental health stigma is about.
Sharing responsibly about mental health reduces stigma, and there is certainly a need for more transparency around mental illness. But sharing select aspects of mental health may be more helpful than sharing everything. Like any topic that becomes oversaturated on social media platforms, more exposure generates more criticism. While the possibility of a negative response should not deter us from speaking authentically about our experience living with mental illness, it should make us mindful of what we share and how we share it.