Why I talk about my mental health on social media

Last week, I went to see a therapist for the first time in years. For those of you who are my friends on Facebook, you already know this — because I'm weird and, when some people post perfect selfies or cute pictures with their boyfriend or baby/pet photos, I post —  for almost 2,000 FB friends to see —  about how I went to see a therapist. Next thing you know, I'll probably be the only person who actually "checks-in" online when I go to see my therapist.

The thing is, people usually post about the perfect things in their lives and their retouched photos (guilty as charged for editing out a pimple on my chin that makes me look like the wicked witch or obsessing over the perfect Instagram filter).

But very rarely do people post about the "real," everyday things. We share a very select version of our lives. We want people to congratulate us on our new job or engagement or baby. We want to show off our good hair day or brag about being on vacation or post mushy stuff about our relationship that will probably make our friends gag a little.

But, did you know findings suggest that depressive symptoms and social media sites are linked? Because, as suggested in the 1950s by psychologist Leon Festinger, humans have the innate tendency to determine their self-worth by comparing their lives to others. And, today, with social media, this is even more true. As we scroll through Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites, we are comparing ourselves to others almost constantly.

According to an article in The Atlantic, "Research has found that making social comparisons, especially 'upward' comparisons (to people we deem above us, to whom we feel inferior, for whatever reason) are associated with negative health outcomes like depressive symptoms and decreased self-esteem. Because Facebook tends to serve as an onslaught of idealized existences—babies, engagement rings, graduations, new jobs—it invites upward social comparison at a rate that can make 'real life' feel like a modesty festival."

That's why, while there is nothing wrong with posting the "good things" on Facebook, I try to post the real things too. Like the fact that I started going to a therapist. Like the fact that I recently found out that, what I thought was just a bad case of anxiety, is actually depression. Because that's the kind of stuff that matters. That's what shows people, "You may be scrolling through Facebook and everybody seems so happy and you think you're the only one who's not. But you're not alone. And it's okay to not be okay. It's okay to seek help."

While it feels nice to be complimented when I post a picture of my good hair day, it means even more when someone tells me, "I read your Facebook post and, you sharing that you went to see a therapist — it gave me the courage to seek help too.”

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