As a millennial, I have always been conscious of these symptoms that arose our generation. At the same time, we are praised for our creativity and growing maturity but also criticised because of the “Narcissus Syndrome” that we all share. We tend to give much importance to the projected and reflected image on society, on close people of our circle, and it is more and more noticeable since the advent of social media. To appear today is not exclusively experienced by the happy few. Moreover, it is not something that we tend to limit to some parties or celebrations because our entire lives are likely to align this instantaneous mirror. The famous adage “to see and to be seen” is more and more significant today in 2019. Very carefully, we aspire to expose ourselves in our most glorious ways, establish plans, digital strategies which will lead us to a subjective and ephemeral success.
It is genuinely a cyclic pressure that every single person using social media and notably Instagram feels: now and then, this app tends to become our best friend or our worst enemy regarding self-love. Also, this never-ending sensation of failure is reinforced by other facts such as negative comments, inadequate resources to appear extremely well clothed, a poor time to embellish our daily lives, reduced motivation to be exposed every day… Last but not least, to some people reading us, all of this is emphasised by a daily burden, in advance really hard to tackle in real life: mental health. As a real challenge in real life, mental health becomes a difficulty hard to handle at these very times when this real life tends to merge with digital life until it becomes one.
A real paradox is triggered here: to what extent to most harmful social media concerning mental health is also becoming the most popular one regarding helping one another?
With the advent of many poets on social media, on Tumblr first, and then Instagram, empathy towards ourselves and other people became accepted. Whereas previously, our walls were invaded by texts explaining that the personal development was mainly a matter of body (remembering the famous before/after) or the development of our wealth, something stopped it, and it was triggered by art. Rupi Kaur, Nayyiarah Waheed, to quote some of them only, have gained enormous popularity, an important clue for us to understand that something was wrong with our stubbornness to expose the right sides of our lives exclusively. Pains and sufferings due to a broken heart were the first to be brought up. For instance, Kaur helped us to go through a break-up step by step whereas Waheed wanted us to accept our fate at all costs.
Somehow, art opened a breach, opened more than ever. The silence was loud. A genuine sincerity replaced it, and it became accepted, more than ever before. Famous people were the first ones to confess to their fans their medical conditions. Lilly Collins has said a lot about her eating disorders and wished to devote a parenthesis of her career to this very issue by playing the lead role in ‘To The Bone’. Kanye West did not hesitate to confess about his bipolarity and, most importantly, Demi Lovato chose to give her news through her fans via Instagram just after her recovery in a detox centre.
However, fans have also taken their role in all of this. When they somehow realised that public people with a public image to preserve have finally talked about their medical condition, they asked themselves: why would not we do the same? The application’s users continued to write this history, digging these sources that we were afraid to explore.
Continuously, more and more pages were establishing themselves as free open spaces for dialogue. @Sadgirlsclub is the most famous of them all, and it tackles through their posts people’s woes and all the sickening linked with it. Now is the time when it is not necessary anymore to hide something that was once qualified as a “problem”. These posts are likely here to touch people with medical conditions, and also, people who want to renew their glance on mental health that cannot be seen anymore as a sign of dishonour or shame. Whereas all bodies are exposed thanks to body positivism, with or without the very compatibility of the body with an established canon, souls are unveiled. This extremely great gesture is a way to finally disclose the secret in which it was always enclosed, the very sign of violence exerted by the power on some “abnormal” forms of the being. The app seems to have gained much maturity. Plus, this new movement also echoes the theories of a great philosopher, Michel Foucault. In History of Madness in the Classic Age, he etched us that, since the end of the Middle Ages, people who were considered as alienated (touched by melancholia, hysteria, etc.), had often been despised and put in a physical and moral “structure of exclusion” within social space.
Since this social space has been extended to the digital world, it opened a place in which people can talk which is a strong gesture to reintegrate morally people handling these medical issues. It is also an ingenious way to tackle these questionings differently, even if it does not have a therapeutic target. Also, the therapeutic facet of mental illness is broached through the hashtag #MyFavoriteMed in which users choose to expose their daily routine. Though it may seem that it is only a way to expose a constraining routine, it is mostly a personification of a life journey that everyone should be proud of.
In parallel, 2018 has been an exceptional year regarding publications linked with the subject. These were also meant to be read by the people touched or concerned by it, a way to expose hardships experienced by these people’s way, day by day. One can think of The Color of My Mind, a photographic project realised by Dior Vargas and adapted into a book tackling mental health through people of colour’s experiences, or 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health written by Kelly Jensen.
Paulette’s last words are finally acceptance, love and self-love, understanding and kindness. All of us are facing different journeys, and it is essential to embrace it at all costs.
> Article by Yasmine Lahrichi