Twitter Users’ Mental Health Stereotypes of Depression
by Emily Brooks
There’s a trend in the media and pop culture, and while it’s hardly new, it disturbs me nonetheless. Throughout social media, the names of mental illnesses are now accepted as adjectives instead.
When people misuse mental health conditions to describe behaviors and feelings, it’s a problem. It delegitimizes the struggles of those of us who struggle with mental health disorders and disseminates incorrect and harmful stereotypes about these serious conditions. I ventured onto Twitter to find out these stereotypes are.
“I gambled and went to Wawa last night thinking school was gunna be canceled… Now I’m overweight and depressed.” –tweet following winter storm
Twitter has a lot of “depressed” users in its ranks, according to fervent tweets about MTV, musicians, celebrities, and the Super Bowl results. Seeing conventionally-attractive people is apparently enough to bring on mental illness for Twitter users. “[MTV show] Teen Wolf makes me depressed because all the guys are so attractive, then I look around the halls of my school and I’m like WTF [what the f—],” explains one tweet, while another user asks others to “retweet if you are depressed because you will never be as pretty” as the celebrity whose photo they’ve attached. Sports games results and the end of the football season is also cause for depression, says Twitter users. Because of their Super Bowl loss, “Broncos fans [are] depressed and buying cake to cheer themselves up,” quips one user, while another is “really depressed” because the NFL Network’s RedZone channel is taking an eight-month break.
Happy experiences are also enough to cause “depression”.
One Tweet says that the “bad thing about seeing Taylor [Swift] in concert” is “when it’s all over you get depressed & just wanna re-live it.” Another Twitter user explains that while she’s “happy” for those fans who get to meet Justin Bieber, “I’m also depressed because I don’t know if I will ever meet him.”
It seems that the general population needs a lesson on what depression is before they go and throw the word around. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI, symptoms can include extreme sadness, guilt, problems with sleep, eating, and concentration, and thoughts of suicide, and they affect your life. So no, Tweeters, depression is not that brief emotion you get when you find out you still have school or work tomorrow after a blizzard.
This post is part one in a five part series. Visit us for the next four Mondays to continue the discussion. Also, please check out more content by Emily Brooks at her blog Changing Perspectives About Gender, Sexuality, and Disability Through Writing.