103 Comments
Feb 14Liked by Freya India

I shared my ever-changing identity on social media all throughout my teens as I navigated my trauma with sexual assault. Now, at 23, with a stable identity and healthy relationship with my sexuality, I regret ever sharing my (what was essentially) label of the month. There is such a crisis of identity for our generation (Mine being Gen Z, but honestly this is true for anyone chronically online) that we cling to labels for a semblance of self. I'm so glad someone is talking about this, it is wonderfully written. I hope young girls read this especially, and give themselves permission to figure out their identity in private, or at the very least talk about it with people you trust instead of post it to a slew of strangers.

Expand full comment

Fab article! I recently read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and despite being 100 years old it’s so prescient. Namely, in the book there’s a disgust at citizens who do anything alone, refuse to share how they’re feeling publicly and those who do are viewed at social pariahs. He clearly saw this coming!

Expand full comment

The irony of sharing depressed day in the life videos on an app that’s likely responsible for the depression!

Expand full comment
Feb 14Liked by Freya India

Another excellent article, thank you, Freya. I'm from the post world war 2 generation (born 1952) and recall that very many people I knew had seen and been the victim of terrible events. Very few - too few probably - talked about their mental scars from those events but many of them talked privately amongst their friends or found ways to shut those memories away from their post-war lives. Talking can be very good but it isn't the best way for everyone and broadcasting your pain on the Internet seems to me to be potentially very damaging for one's future happiness, as you say.

Expand full comment

I really liked this. I admit that at first I was sure I would disagree adamantly with what you were going to say. Opening up in my writing online was a crucial part of my recovery process. But… I was in my thirties, writing essays online, not 15 and sharing snapchats or tweets. I think opening up is a crucial part of healing - not bc we have an obligation to help erase stigma (although some of us do imo) but because it helps de stigmatize mental health in our own minds. Also, I guess I knew enough to post about the bad times when they were starting to pass. I can’t imagine posting about the bad times during the bad times and getting rejected for it. Especially as a teen.

I read a piece recently about how therapy speak online can be harmful to teens. How many kids get stressed out remembering something and call it ptsd and pathologize themselves, creating a cycle, giving away their agency and control over to a cluster of symptoms descriptive of a disease state they don’t even have.

I just deleted my social media accounts from my phone for Lent. Yours is the third piece I’ve read recently pointing to really significant dangers of social media. Maybe I won’t go back.

So in the end… I thought I would be outraged at your essay but instead I’m commending it 😝 Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Expand full comment
Feb 14·edited Feb 14Liked by Freya India

There's a fine distinction between opening up and oversharing. I don't see too many people opening up and discussing in a healthy way, more trauma-dumping and then being applauded for it. That's not a healthy way to engage with your personal struggle...

Expand full comment

One of the best things about adulthood, for Millennials, has been the ability to re-brand ourselves every few years. We're not staying at jobs for 40 years anymore, so we have an opportunity our grandparents didn't have.

We get to switch jobs and then be more assertive, because no one knows us yet. We get to move to a new place and let go of things people used to say about us.

Re-branding yourself is an absolute treasure, and social media only gets in the way of that.

Lovely post

Expand full comment

I would honestly make this Substack required reading at secondary schools each week. This message is so needed out there as an antidote to all the corporate inspired BS.

Expand full comment
Feb 14Liked by Freya India

Spot on again! It's so deeply ingrained that honest - even loving constructive criticism, sparks rage as we address the fact that this really isn't the wisest way to handle mental health issues. It's going to be interesting to watch how this pans out in a couple years time. Unfortunately, many will have to reap what they have sowed very soon, hopefully truths such as this can steer them in a better direction. Great stuff girl

Expand full comment

I feel that all people should take pause when their suffering begins to absorb their identity. And especially when said suffering is monetized. This is the fine-line between openness about how you suffer which subsequently makes you a resource versus suffering for the sake of maintaining your identity as "the afflicted." I agree with what you have pointed out, that there are mountains of media which talk about the continual struggle of those with mental illnesses, and very little about triumph. The catalogue of videos is not a breathing memoir, documenting one's progression. It is a freezer, storing one's stilled identity in place. Furthermore, that social media conglomerates have found a way to cause problems and offer the "solution" in the same breath. I appreciate your plea for young women and girls in particular to take pause at this trend.

Expand full comment

So, in all fairness to TikTok (I recently made an account there), it's actually set up to where you put in your age and the algorithm keeps you limited to people within your age range - so, adults pretty much exclusively see content made by other adults (in my couple months on the app, I have only ever seen content made by users age 30+).

So, I suspect this guy is probably talking to an older demographic that's similar to his age (hopefully). Still, I totally agree that even us adults need to focus on building real-life support systems and not sharing every painful detail of our lives online. But that's especially true if any kids are somehow viewing that content. It really does end up becoming a race to the bottom where people are almost competing for traumatic stories to share. It becomes part of their identity online (and off), which is not good.

Expand full comment

I've got a complicated relationship with social media. On one hand, I love how it's connected us with like-minded people from all corners of the globe and made it a breeze for artists and creators to share their work freely—at least initially. But as each year goes by, these platforms seem to get more aggressive, pushing everyone to keep creating and engaging just to grow and 'stay relevant.' Seeing family and friends take mental health, relationship, and financial advice, or even take in fake news from just anyone on social media worries me. What will our future look like? As long as you have enough money, power, and resources, you can steer the social media conversation any way you want. Nowadays, people are bombarded with so much content that hardly anyone stops to question what they're consuming with a critical eye. It's frightening to think about where this could all lead, but it's important that we do and that we begin to propose solutions. Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!

Expand full comment
Feb 14Liked by Freya India

I hate seeing people trauma dumping on tiktok or in their comments

Expand full comment

Open Up!.....In the words of Kathleen Stock (who I quoted in this piece: https://grahamcunningham.substack.com/p/shall-we-dance) "......Sometimes, talking about your feelings makes them worse and sometimes responding empathically to other people’s feelings only makes them more histrionic and attention-seeking. It can be very good to talk, but it can also be very good to shut the hell up and stamp off to dig the garden."

Expand full comment

In my early 20s, I thought I was depressed, but it turns out I was just sad about the transitions to life after college, etc. I shared so much on social media and when I see my FB memories, it’s so cringe. At the time, I just didn’t have the right words for it.

Expand full comment

I’ve stopped sharing online. It’s relieved a lot of the pressure in my mind about how to frame my experiences for a post. I also don’t miss the awful feeling of people judging me after I’ve been vulnerable, or even just disagreeing with me after I’ve shared. Sharing invites comment and I’ve realized that my life is MY life. I absolutely agree about not wanting to record highs and lows for the internet to catalog. My wellness ebbs and flows and I do not want to be reminded of or defined by my lowest points.

Expand full comment