In a social media world full of disinformation, toxicity, and negativity, it’s no wonder that mental health issues continue to grow among the youth in a country so involved and active in the chatrooms, newsfeeds, and forums of the vast data and information hub that is the social media world.
With the growing movement towards ending the stigma against mental illness and promoting awareness and support for the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos suffering from mental health issues, and especially with the youth at the forefront of this crusade, we have seen milestone legislation like the Mental Health Act of 2017; yet as we await the greater rewards of this success, the struggle to promote mental health awareness and wellbeing continues.
For the members of INTROSPECT, a likeminded mental health youth organization, the movement for mental health is both an offline and an online struggle especially with the increasingly toxic environment of the country’s social media networks, the rise of cyberbullying cases, and online disinformation and defamation causing many of our netizens to experience “social media depression,” a phenomenon linking various mental health issues including anxiety and depression to excessive social media use and exposure to online toxicity.
More than anything though, social media is also an opportunity to look into and reflect upon, INTROSPECT invites us to look behind and beyond our screens to see what we do on social media, how it affects our mental health and others’, and what we can do online and offline to help build a more inclusive, supportive, and positive online space.
The connections that we, the youth, make online give us a unique power to influence and shape our online spaces. We, too, are social media influencers in our own corners of the online world; we, too, are responsible for disrupting the current waves of negativity trending in our online spaces, and we too are stakeholders in the mental wellbeing of our communities on and offline.
Behind and Beyond the Screen is INTROSPECT’s pilot social media depression awareness campaign aimed at bringing the youth, particularly university students together to discuss and come up with solutions to reduce the negative mental health impact of social media depression in the youth today, as they’re guided and oriented not only by online personalities and influencers, but medical professionals and health educators in developing solutions and policies to promote mental wellness through responsible social media use.
By asking us to looking deeper into our social media use and online activity, INTROSPECT hopes to take us beyond just mental health advocacy, towards using social media as a tool and a weapon in the movement for mental health by creating online safe spaces, promoting responsible social media use, and ultimately creating a sense of shared responsibility to care for the wellbeing of our online communities. INTROSPECT challenges us now: to become positive social media influencers as well as mental health movers.