Gemma Styles | Contributing writer | Saturday, 9 April 2016

Gemma Styles 9 April

Gemma Styles: When You're Depressed, Is There Any Value In 'Faking It' On Social Media?

The Debrief: 'I've always thought that actively portraying a 'fake' version of your life is a bad thing to do. But what if that's the only thing that gets you out of bed in the morning?'

Photograph by Matilda Hill-Jenkins

I've talked plenty in the past about how social media definitely isn't a realistic portrayal of our lives - unless you're super brave, it's unlikely you're going to be posting selfies when you've got a massive zit on your nose, or tweeting when you're a bit stressed and miserable watching telly. If it's not a classy, monochrome flat lay, triple filtered selfie or some kind of fancy barista coffee then it's not touching most people's feeds. 

In light of a story shared online earlier this week, I've been thinking about this a bit more... Amber Smith, a young woman from Warwickshire, has posted a pair of images online; one shows the 'normal' Amber, a bit dressed up, plenty of slap on and filtered to the hilt. The other image shows Amber in a state she calls another version of 'normal' for her - in the middle of the night, panicked, as she'd just had an anxiety attack. 

Unless you have experience of anxiety and depression it can be really hard to understand the extent to which it affects your life. Like Amber said, the 'normal' version of herself that she shows to the world is far different from the normality of her life living with these mental illnesses. But the first version, the happy version, has also become the norm for her; is there an element of 'fake it 'til you make it' going on with our social media selves? Does putting across a more happy-go-lucky version of yourself online trickle down and make you feel happier in general?

I think it's hard to judge and probably comes down to the individual. As Amber says herself, there are a lot of people out there giving advice like 'You don't need tablets, just be happier.' For people, including myself, living with depression and anxiety, it isn't as simple as just "being happier." It's not that we're being lazy and with a bit of effort we could be a ray of sunshine. In reality, when you're having a depressive episode, the very concept of 'effort' is impossible. Some days getting out of bed seems like a gargantuan task, both mentally and physically. 

I'm certainly not saying that posting some smiley Instagrams is going to be a magical cure, but it's interesting that for some people, perhaps like Amber, building a social profile of the person you'd like to be might actually be a framework on which to build yourself a new 'normal'. Not one that will last 24/7 or change the person you are inside, but more forming a positive habit, that may help some people to scaffold their mentality onto one that makes them happier.

Essentially what I'm saying here is that there's a new angle on social media I hadn't previously considered. While it's pretty inevitable that our online lives will be a highly edited version of ourselves, I've always come to the conclusion that actively portraying a 'fake' version of your life is a bad thing to do. However for some people, if it actually helps them to get on with their lives each day, then perhaps it's not the worst thing. A little like putting a bandage on perhaps. Not actively repairing you - but providing a bit of cover while you're healing.

Liked this? You might also be interested in: 

Gemma Styles: 'Turns Out There's No Occasion Too Inappropriate For A Selfie'

Gemma Styles: 'None Of Us Are Immune To Teenage Loneliness, But It Does Get Better'

Gemma Styles: 'What Does Success Really Look Like In 2016?'

Follow Gemma on Twitter @GemmaAnneStyles

Tags: Gemma Styles