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Are Relatable Posts Doing Our Mental Health More Harm Than Good?

Ah, relatable posts—they're the bread and butter of Gen Z's online presence. From memes about procrastinating on overdue assignments to TikToks about the anxiety you feel when you're about to order a cup of iced coffee (anyone else here likes to rehearse their order while standing in line?), relatable content is a cornerstone of our youth's culture. It's the digital equivalent of gathering around the water cooler to commiserate about the struggles of daily life. In fact, it's hard to imagine what our social media feeds would look like without them.

So, why are relatable posts so popular among Gen Z? And how have they become such an integral part of our online identity?

Social media have definitely transformed the way we communicate and express ourselves, particularly among younger generations. Today's youth often find themselves scrolling through feeds filled with relatable posts about mental health issues and everyday experiences. These posts can both be positive and negative, as they may provide a sense of familiarity and belonging while at the same time promoting negative narratives that could harm those who are struggling with mental health problems.

Are relatable posts potentially doing us more harm than good? Should we stop enjoying these posts altogether for the sake of our mental health? Let's assess both the positives and negatives of these posts and see what we can conclude.

Positive Effects of Relatable Posts

Relatable posts have become incredibly popular among young people. They offer a sense of comfort and validation, making people feel less alone in their struggles. Here are some of the positive effects of relatable posts that may impact our youth:

1. Reducing stigma

No more stigma and shame! Normalizing mental health as a topic can be of help to those struggling with mental health conditions. A sense of solidarity and empathy can be created from sharing personal stories and experiences, eventually breaking down the stereotypes and myths surrounding mental illness. This is very important, as destigmatization may lead to the next point, which is help-seeking.

2. Encouraging help-seeking

When individuals see others sharing their experiences with mental health challenges, it can encourage them to seek help for their own struggles. This can include seeking professional treatment, confiding in friends or family, or simply taking steps to prioritize self-care. Something as simple as a relatable post can push people on the path of recovery.

3. Building community

Social media platforms offer opportunities for individuals to connect with others who share similar experiences and struggles. Relatable posts about mental health can help individuals build supportive communities and foster a sense of belonging and acceptance. Finding friends who struggle similarly doesn't only provide a safe space for one to open up and feel like they belong, but it also establishes a strong bond between those who might have trouble finding friends and who understand them on a deeper level.

4. Normalizing mental health conversations

By talking openly about mental health, individuals can help to normalize the conversation around mental illness and make it easier for others to do the same. This can help to create a culture where mental health is viewed as a normal part of overall health and well-being. Conversations around mental health may also create informative discussions for those who are struggling.

For example, people may share their experiences in therapy, the kinds of things they do to help themselves cope, and so forth. In this day and age, helpful information comes in many forms, and that includes relatable posts. There are tons of Instagram posts and TikToks discussing therapy experiences and what to expect during therapy sessions.

5. Providing hope

Seeing others share their experiences and journeys with mental health challenges can provide hope and inspiration for those who may be struggling. It can help individuals see that they are not alone and that recovery and healing are possible.

Negative Effects of Relatable Posts

Despite their positive impact, relatable posts can also have negative effects on mental health. Many of these posts use self-deprecating humor, or "edgy" humor, which can perpetuate negative narratives and stereotypes about mental health. Said humor in these posts may result in these negative outcomes:

1. Trivialization of mental illness

Some individuals may use relatable posts about mental health as a way to make light of serious mental health conditions. This can trivialize the experiences of those who struggle with mental illness and perpetuate harmful stereotypes. For example, there are many posts out there that picture those with Borderline Personality Disorder as people who are manipulative, narcissistic, selfish on purpose, and the worst of all, as abusive individuals.

Though this might be true in some cases, this is a very harmful stereotype, as BPD itself is already a highly stigmatized disorder, both in general society and among mental health professionals. Modern internet culture has somehow reduced BPD into an "evil" disorder, where those with the diagnosis are seen as emotionally unpredictable and abusive people, all in the name of lighthearted humor.

2. Self-diagnosis

Relatable posts about mental health may also lead some individuals to self-diagnose or assume that they have a certain mental health condition based on their symptoms or experiences. This can be dangerous, as it can prevent individuals from seeking professional help and receiving an accurate diagnosis. While it is okay to suspect that one might have a particular disorder, it is not okay to completely diagnose oneself with it. It's important to always check with a professional before making any assumptions, as the information provided through relatable posts isn't always accurate.

3. Triggering

For individuals who struggle with mental health challenges, relatable posts about mental health may be triggering and exacerbating their symptoms. This is especially true for individuals who are in the midst of a crisis or are particularly vulnerable. This may trigger episodes or relapses in some people, and it is extremely dangerous when that happens.

Putting a trigger warning at the beginning of potentially triggering posts is a solution that some people use to prevent this from happening. Even so, it doesn't guarantee that people will skip a triggering post just because of a warning.

4. Comparison and pressure

Some individuals may feel pressure to live up to the expectations of others or compare their experiences to those shared in relatable posts about mental health. This can create feelings of inadequacy or pressure to conform to certain standards, which can be harmful to their mental health. There are certain cases where people may feel as though they're not "sick" enough, so they try to worsen their symptoms to feel validated.

The truth is, if you've got a diagnosis of a certain mental illness, that's already valid in itself. One must focus on recovering more than trying to fit into stereotypes or getting validated by people on the internet.

5. Lack of nuance

Relatable posts about mental health may not capture the full range of experiences and nuances surrounding mental illness. This can create a narrow view of mental health and prevent individuals from fully understanding the complexities of mental health conditions. This may lead to harmful stereotypes, self-diagnosis, the spread of misinformation, and other negative effects.

Nowadays, people have a tendency to just mention the surface-level symptoms of disorders in posts, which may be relatable to most, if not all, people. Those "symptoms" may not even have anything to do with the mental illness mentioned.

For example, there have been some posts circulating around that say that procrastination is a symptom of ADHD, while ADHD is much deeper than just procrastinating and being inattentive at times. This lack of nuance has caused a widespread misconception, leading to people self-diagnosing and throwing around ADHD terms without fully understanding the meaning behind them.

Summary: Pros and Cons of Relatable Posts

It's difficult to say definitively whether relatable posts about mental health are doing more harm than good for young people. Like any tool or resource, social media and relatable posts have both potential benefits and drawbacks.

On the one hand, relatable posts about mental health can help to reduce stigma, provide support and encouragement, and create a sense of community for young people who may be struggling with mental health challenges. By sharing personal experiences, individuals can help to break down barriers and make it easier for young people to seek help and support when they need it.

On the other hand, relatable posts may also have negative effects, such as triggering symptoms or encouraging self-diagnosis. In some cases, relatable posts may even perpetuate harmful stereotypes or trivialize serious mental health conditions.

It's important for young people to approach social media and relatable posts with a critical eye and to seek out credible sources of information and support when needed. Parents, educators, and mental health professionals can also play a role in guiding young people toward safe and appropriate online resources and supporting them in their mental health journeys.

Tiara Georgina
50k+ pageviews

Writer since Sep, 2019 · 12 published articles

Tiara is a journalist at The Teen Magazine. Explorative and genuinely curious about life and all it has to offer, she dives into a whole variety of topics in her writing, mostly concerning pop culture, beauty, and mental health. Currently residing in Jakarta, Indonesia, she is experienced with writing articles for her school's publication in the beauty section and experimenting with makeup and skincare. She is passionate about coming up with fresh ideas and turning them into helpful, informative, and eye-opening content for everyone to enjoy and learn from. Aside from writing and makeup, she also enjoys art, reading, traveling, cosplaying, learning new languages, playing video games, and watching animated shows.