The Mental Health and Social Media panel took place on Saturday at Summer in the City 2019, in Panel Room A. It was moderated by Olly Thorn and panellists included Scola Dondo, Jade Bowler and Jemel Akeem.
Olly‘s first question touched on the limits of the mental health discourse on YouTube. He asked the panellists what more they’d like to see on the platform.
For Jade, it’s more creators using disclaimers when what they’re sharing isn’t professional advice. “Although it’s coming from a place of experience and might have been told to them by a professional, at the end of the day it might be misinformed.”
She went on to add that “if influencers are gonna open up about [mental health] and think, ‘oh I’d love to raise awareness about this’, I think it’d be really cool to bring on a GP or a professional and have that discussion.”
Jaiden said that it would also be helpful for more people to talk about their experience after overcoming difficulties with their mental health.
“It’s definitely more clickable and more appealing to watch someone struggle” she mused, stating however that “it’s really helpful to watch someone go through something and then give their experience out the other end.”
Joel agreed, adding that providing “clear action steps on what people can actually do to start making that progress” can be more helpful than just talking about it in the abstract.
However, Gary pointed out that it’s also important to be mindful of your own comfort, as well as any implications sharing may have for you.
“I think it’s very easy to get caught up in this culture of giving all of yourself to the internet,” he commented, “and I think that can be really bad for you sometimes because once it’s out there, it can’t be taken back.”
Scola followed this up this point by stressing that “you want to be realistic, but if there isn’t a positive that can be really negative for your audience because they look up to you and they want to see you doing well.”
Although social media has its positives, there can be a lot of social pressures that come with it. As Jemel said: “A lot of people go online and they compare themselves and in comparing yourself, you devalue yourself.”
Making the comparison to real-life interactions, Joel explained that “If you say something mean in real life you’re held responsible by the person, the people who are there, and therefore you think twice about saying things that might be hurtful for others. However, online there’s no responsibility, there are no consequences so [..] no one really has that filter.”
Jaiden then pointed out that sometimes people can view their mental health diagnosis as a defining personality trait, which “keeps you within it, so I think it’s important to also remember that you’re not defined by it and you shouldn’t see it as a personality trait that others define you as too.” Her words were met with applause from the audience.
Scola then spoke about how your emotions can be so intense and varied when you’re online, explaining that when scrolling through Twitter, “I can be laughing and then crying within two seconds” and that “it’s not normal to go through so many emotions within like, one minute of scrolling.”
Gary agreed that the internet can be a negative space for your mental health in some ways, but it can also be a comfort. “Without the internet, I wouldn’t be able to cope with my depression and anxiety, because it’s given me a community to support me.”
Broadening the conversation, Olly asked about factors outside of social media that may also have a negative effect on your mental health.
Jaiden mentioned that some people can have a “toxic” influence on you and that it’s important to remove yourself from these influences. Equally, in the online world, Jade suggested unfollowing people or accounts that make you feel negative or insecure.
Looking to the education system, Joel said: “I don’t think there’s enough focus on how to treat other people, how to treat yourself, how to think positively, how to continue your growth in those areas rather than just your exam growth.”
Then followed the question of advertising and sponsorships, and whether creators should be profiting from discussing mental health on their channel.
Scola mentioned that if you’re donating the profits of the video to charity then there’s value in that. Aside from that example, however, there was general agreement that it can make your content feel disingenuous.
Gary said you’ve got to ask yourself, “‘Am I making this video for a coin, or am I making this video for myself or to help people?'”, and that if you’re profiting from the content and calling yourself a mental health vlogger “you’re on dodgy ground because you are going to be seen as suspect.”
He compared it to YouTubers profiting from their apology videos: “Their apologies have got an affiliate link for Audible and all that, and you’re sitting there thinking, ‘just how sorry are you?'”
Olly then opened up the panel to questions, and an audience member asked Jemel how he deals with hate online, particularly from the football community.
Jemel responded that as he deals with hate on a daily basis, he’ll moderate his comments but he’ll also actively ignore it.
“When you put yourself out there on the internet, you kind of sign up for the good side and the bad side,” he said, adding “I don’t take it to heart because I know who I am and I know what’s true and what isn’t true.”
The next question centred on how to find the balance between maintaining resilience and opening up about your issues with mental health.
Gary admitted that he’s a “fixer”, saying, “I’m somebody that wants to save all the souls”.
However, as he struggles with anxiety and depression “it can be very difficult to get that balance.” He stressed the importance of practising self-care.
Jade shared that before she looks at the comment section on her videos, she “will literally sit and almost imagine myself shielding myself from any negative comments.”
Photos by Emma Pamplin.
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