In the past decade or so, checking social media has become a habit for most people.  It's easy to log onto any online platform, and most of us do it without a second thought.  Social media has become an important tool in business, education, and so much more - however, because it is so easy to put whatever you want out there (with anonymous features making it even easier), the romanticization of mental illnesses is a growing issue (yes, Tumblr, I'm looking at you).

Social media is full of posts and images ranging from innocent jokes about OCD to the immediate aftermath of self harm.  On platforms such as Tumblr and Instagram in particular, it isn't uncommon to come across a photo of a bunch of pills on a plate or bloody razor blades.

Now, before I go any further, allow me to clarify something: Depression is not tragically beautiful.  Eating disorders aren't romantic.  OCD isn't a joke, and anxiety isn't cute.  Mental illnesses are Hell.

I have been socially anxious since before I can remember, and have struggled with body image and OCD since I was around eight years old, all of which (along with other factors) contributed to long, horrible bouts of depression.  Now, I'm not here to tell my life story, and I'm definitely not here for pity.  What I am here to do is to help people open their eyes to the ever-growing romanticization of mental illnesses in society.

Society is no stranger to the images of stick thin women and toned, muscular men that haunt billboards and magazines, providing a constant reminder of the ways we will never be good enough - and that's just the surface of the issue.  It's not hard to delve deep into almost any social media platform (namely, Tumblr) and come across images tagged as "pro-ana" (as in, pro anorexia) or "pro-mia" (as in - you guessed it - pro bulimia).  There is no shortage of lists of "tips" on how to starve yourself or tutorials on how to make yourself throw up, along with endless amounts of images of sickly thin girls with protruding bones tagged as "thinspo" or "thinspiration".  These things not only condition us to think that it's normal and even desirable to be anorexic, bulimic, or have any other type of eating disorder, but they encourage it, claiming that you need to be these things to be "pure" and to achieve perfection.

Alternatively, there are many recovery blogs which offer help in recovering from eating disorders. However even these can be unhealthy and, dare I say, ~problematic~ in that they often encourage a sort of quasi-recovery state consisting of yoga, running, smoothies and Luna bars (not to say that these are bad things; I appreciate all of these things on a healthy level) and young teenagers still refusing pizza at birthday parties and striving for a "toned" and athletic body as an alternate to the stick thin figure with protruding bones and a thigh gap.

Similar to the pro-eating disorder blogs and posts, it's easy to find articles and tutorials giving you tips on how to self harm without (or with) the intent of killing yourself, and plenty of quotes romanticizing it.  It's common to see photos of the immediate aftermath of cutting, or quotes about how depression is "beautifully tragic", etc.  While many social media platforms are working towards censoring these things, this generation is sneaky with their use of hashtags, making it increasingly difficult for the people involved in monitoring social media to keep up.

Anxiety and OCD are among the other commonly romanticized mental illnesses, and are often seen as "cute", "funny", and "relatable", with endless memes, tweets, and Tumblr posts joking about either one.  Things like these not only normalize these illnesses and make them appear desirable to have, but often cause those suffering deeply from them to question the validity and realness of their illness.  

This article is not, however, to say that social media is all bad.  I, myself, am a culprit of spending too much time on Tumblr and Instagram (with cycles of other social media platforms sprinkled in as well).  It's all a matter of following the right people and being mindful of what you're viewing.  Social media is an incredible tool to have - but, like any other tool, it must be used correctly and responsibly.

Because I wanted to keep this article brief and simply talk a bit about my thoughts on the topic and raise awareness, I will link some more in-depth articles down below that I highly suggest reading:

This in-depth article by The Next Web on the impacts of social media on mental health: http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2014/05/10/dangerous-impacts-social-media-rise-mental-illnesses/#gref

This article by The Huffington Post on the link between heavy social media use and mental illnesses: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/social-media-mental-health_us_55b129d9e4b08f57d5d3eedf

And finally, this insightful article from Young Minds Advocacy discussing the pros and cons involved with social media and mental health: https://www.youngmindsadvocacy.org/social-media-mental-illness-the-good-and-the-bad/