What Social Media Doesn't Tell You About Mental Illness

“All smiles.”

That was my Instagram caption on this photo during the worst summer. Why did I post it, you may ask? Because of the pressure. Everyone from school was showing themselves traveling, meeting up with friends, eating delicious food and just having a great time. And what could I say? That I was spending all of my time working so I didn’t have to face my anxiety and eating disorder? That I felt trapped in my childhood home, like I was moving backward at a time when I’m supposed to be discovering my independence?

No way. Social media is not meant to explain the bad days, it’s meant to cover them up. We hear about suicides and exclaim, “But they seemed so happy” and we scroll through their profiles, looking for signs. The sign we cannot see is the shame associated with having a bad day. When your college team wins a big game or you celebrate the holidays or you transition to a new place, the expectation is you are happy. So you share what you think happy is, hoping the “likes” will serve as validation that this is the way you should be feeling.

Here is what social media does not tell you. We post photos of ourselves at the peak of the mountain and we pretend we were never in the valley. But it is only half of the truth. Having a social media image can be therapeutic, so let’s by all means not avoid it. But we should be careful to think we know the whole story about someone from scrolling through a profile. If it is not the reality for ourselves, then how can we expect it to be real for anyone else?

I have found when I sit down with others and ask how they are, this is when their filters fall off. That is when I know it is not just me. It is easy for me to idealize the summer before recovery because of the careful way I documented it. Every time I think I would be happier if I went back to the way things were, I write down the truth. It puts everything into perspective and after my summer of filtered smiles, it has helped change my life.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo via contributor.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Mental Health

A woman in a field

How My Life Has Changed After Developing a Phobia

I have two main phobias. One I am not ready to admit to the world and the other is ticks, those delightful blood sucking, disease carrying bugs. I just thought it may be helpful for an outsider to see how drastically my life has changed since developing this phobia. I want to show that: People [...]
Vector illustration with young girl. EPS10 file contain transparent effects.

4 Misconceptions I Used to Have About Therapy

I recently was watching a television show where a man was being confronted by a friend about his new drug habits. The concerned friend suggested going to therapy and getting some help. The man instantly fired back a line about how talking about your problems never actually solves any of those problems. This man’s reaction [...]
Silly little girl holding a parents hand barefoot in the grass, laughing

To My Sweet Child, From Your Mom With Mental Illness

Dear sweet child, Sometimes Mommy is sick. Sometimes you can’t see that Mommy is sick. But you somehow know something isn’t right. You’re far too young to be told Mommy has a brain illness. You may not understand at such a young and innocent age. I wish with all my being that I could keep my [...]
woman looking over her shoulder

When Self-Sabotage Feels Like the Comforting Thing to Do

Why would someone deliberately do something to hurt themselves? Something that makes them feel unworthy? Something that makes them feel useless? Why would they set themselves goals, but as the finish line approaches, move the goalposts again and again, and again, making it impossible to ever achieve their target? The above questions bring to mind [...]