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Social Media: The Judge, The Jury, and The Psychiatrist


You cannot escape the topic of mental health on social media, whether it's advice from a random 16 year old, advice from someone with a semi relevant degree on TikTok, or someone lamenting their personal experiences. If you recognize the words neurodivergent, neurotypical, anxious avoidant attachment style, fight, flight, freeze, or fawn, you've either been to therapy, or you've been on Twitter/TikTok in the past two months, which is a wild convergence of variables.


Since the pandemic, mental health has become a much more mainstream concern, for obvious reasons. We've long been in a mental health crisis, with "an estimated 50% of all Americans diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime," which has been put on the back burner in favor of attending to the economic crisis, the housing crisis, the unemployment crisis, and so on.

Pretty much everyone in the world is experiencing this collective fatigue whether it's from long term isolation or a dizzying news cycle, and I think it's good that we can lament together via social media. 



What begins to scare me, however, is when the occasional anecdote about having an anxious day turns a little darker, and all of a sudden your entire timeline is full of people expressing their feelings of doom and gloom. That's no fault to social media itself, but what is, is the ability to capitalize off depression and mental illness in general. 


TikTok is the greatest offender in this, and given their younger skewing user-ship, it has the ability to do the most damage. It seems as though every third video the algorithm puts on your 'for you page' is about mental health, physical health, or someone just straight up diagnosing you. A lot of young people on social media have yet to learn that the internet is not real life, or how to determine what a trustworthy source is, or that people will lie for views. It's hardly their fault! All of their lives they've relied on google for answers on homework, tests, and papers.

Also at play here is the Barnum Effect, most often used to explain astrology and personality tests, is "the phenomenon that occurs when individuals believe that personality descriptions apply specifically to them (more so than to other people), despite the fact that the description is actually filled with information that applies to everyone." 



As a result of these factors, it seems like every month there's a new hot button disability or mental illness being discussed, and people are convinced they have it. Last month it was Autism,  and this month it's ADHD/ADD. Both of which actually are under-diagnosed in women specifically, and what do I know? Maybe this mass output of information has helped some people get diagnosed by a real doctor and finally receive the help they need.


Which brings me to another issue. Social media has become the judge, the jury, and the psychiatrist; judging people who self-diagnose, gate-keeping disabilities, and claims that people are faking mental illness. Speaking as someone who was diagnosed with ADHD at age 10 after 3 days of testing, I can understand the frustration some people feel when they see someone self-diagnose. For example, ADHD used to just be the reason teachers treated me poorly, now it's a fun little thing to tweet about. 


However, we are in a pandemic. Most people are tight on money and a lot of people are out of jobs and insurance meaning they cant afford a trip to the psychiatrist to diagnose something they may or may not have been dealing with all of their life. Even before the pandemic, access to affordable healthcare (in the US) has been scarce. 

So instead of turning on each other, we should turn on the big guys! There's nothing we do better than bully companies into doing things.


Main issue: There's no regulation on claims people can make to one of the most vulnerable age groups right now: Gen Z kids doing high school online or finishing college from their childhood bedroom. This I blame on social media.

 TikTok's community guidelines has a section specifically referring to their efforts to protect minors, "We are deeply committed to ensuring the safety of minors on our platform. We do not tolerate activities that perpetuate the abuse, harm, endangerment, or exploitation of minors on TikTok." What is not being flagged as endangerment to minors are videos with a list of general symptoms like "anxiety in new situations," that most people occasionally experience, claiming that if you have any of these you could be autistic. People bring in print outs of WebMD diagnosis to the doctors office- are people going to start showing TikToks to their psychiatrists? 


There is one woman, one hero in the shadows that I pray ends up on every teenager's fyp: Inna Kanevsky, Ph.D. (@dr_inna). Dr. Inna's videos are stitches of her reacting to "advice" and fake psychology facts spouted by unqualified sources. This particular video is my favorite of hers because she addresses the "things you didn't realize were (insert disability or illness here)"


TikTok: @dr_inna


She's transparent about her background and credentials, and she shares her sources as well as actual authorities on the topic that you can follow instead.  




As mental health awareness on social media teeters on the boundary of mental health paranoia through mass self-diagnosis, the least you can do for young, impressionable people is report "informational" videos posted by unqualified individuals. 



 Adrienne Lucas / Senior Editor

A passionate writer with experience in editing, content creation, and social media marketing. A lover of animals, helping others improve their writing, and 2000's pop culture.

Social Media: The Judge, The Jury, and The Psychiatrist Reviewed by Adrienne Lucas on Monday, February 15, 2021 Rating: 5
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