September 17, 2019

In Defense of Memes for Mental Health

Mental Health & Wellbeing

If we’re being honest, social media gets a really bad reputation in the world of mental health. A lot of these criticisms are earned because social media use is linked with an increase in anxiety and depression. The comparison game on social media can cause many people to have low self-esteem because the version we present of ourselves on social media is often not accurate. Even if it is accurate, the feelings that someone might have more than we have or reach milestones before us or succeed in their career more all cause anxiety for us as a society.

Social media has become such a large part of society that we need to find a way to use it for good. One of the ways we can do this is through meme culture. Memes make ideas popular by spreading messages in an easy to understand and consume format. Memes have been around for centuries, but our society has taken meme culture to a new level, especially because picture oriented social media like Instagram, Imgur, Pinterest, etc have reached such high levels of popularity. Many of these websites have bad reputations for causing envy in their users and portraying an inaccurate picture of life. While true, the meme aspects of these websites can be beneficial to their users for the following reasons.

Increasing Our Compassion

Memes help spread popular ideas that are changing society as we understand it. Many meme accounts are associated with particular topics like politics, inclusion, or culture. As people share memes, they begin to understand the thoughts and feelings of other people around them, which leads to empathy and compassion. When we begin to have compassion for others, it becomes easier to show compassion to ourselves. In this way, memes may help us give ourselves a break, especially when memes communicate that, “no one has it together”

Feeling Less Alone

The internet is often referred to as an “echo chamber” where everyone only interacts with ideas that are comfortable and similar to what they already believe. This can hold us back when we are unwilling to hear dissenting opinions or grow in knowledge. However, memes can have the opposite effect. Many meme accounts, especially those that are user submitted, post from a wide variety of opinions and viewpoints. By connecting over humor, we are able to familiarize ourselves with other viewpoints.

We also begin to see that we are not alone in our thoughts and feelings. For example, memes around holidays, starting summer, ending summer, going back to school, etc all show us that our feelings about these events are often the same as many other people. This helps us feel more understood when we have family conflict at Thanksgiving, can’t sleep at 3 am or worry about finding a job after graduation. Memes can help normalize these things so that we no longer feel as though we are the only ones struggling.

Educating About Mental Health

Recently, a number of memes have been created that normalize mental health. These memes cover many elements of mental health, including mental illness, seeing a therapist, and positive thoughts for mental health. These memes give me hope for the internet because they are teaching people about boundaries, showing people to ask for help with their depression and anxiety, and lowering the stigma around talking about our mental health.

Memes about seeing a therapist help people understand that it can be scary to admit that you’re going to therapy, but help normalize the experience. They add humor to the common questions a therapist asks like, “how does this make you feel?”.

Many of these memes also show that you can find a good therapist who wants to connect with you, help you understand yourself better, and grow as a person. If you are looking for a therapist to be this person for you, call today!

Written by therapist Elise Champanhet

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