Popular therapists and content creators on TikTok, speaking about the intersection of social media and mental health, brought their expertise to VidCon.
In a panel moderated by LA times Journalist and TikToker V. Spehar called “Triggered: The Sensationalization of Mental Health Online” with Shani T (@theshaniproject), Dr. J (@amoderntherapist) and Dr. Courtney Tracy (@the.truth.doctor), the creators spoke about mental illness, stigma, trigger warnings and the popular video sharing platform.
The creators have tackled difficult issues, like the rhetoric that social media contributes to the rise of mental health problems. With a precipitous rise in mood disorders and suicidal thoughts among teens from 2005 to 2017, as reported by AJMC, researchers fear social media may be to blame. Other concerns include the increase in tic-like behavior among teenage girls, similar to what happens when creators with Tourette’s Syndrome watch online, as reported by Fortune.
When asked how much truth there was to that, Dr. Tracy: “For example, if Tourettes are on the rise in young girls, then that statement should be based on diagnostics. If that is indeed the case and people are being diagnosed by a professional, then maybe it’s because people are more open to talking about what their problems actually are.”
The statistics support Dr. Tracy’s Opinion: Part of this increase in diagnoses is an increase in access to therapy and a decrease in the stigma associated with it. Over the past twenty years, there has been a notable increase in the number of Americans seeking mental health resources, from about 20% of Americans seeking therapy in 2002 to a whopping 41% in 2020. Dr. Tracy attributes this in part to the normalization of mental health: “Because of TikTok, people are more open to talking about their mental health issues.”
But even these creators are not immune to social media pressures. They shared their experiences of impostor syndrome or feeling doubtful about your abilities and accomplishments. dr J shared his thoughts: “It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in school or how much information you have on something, you’re going to feel how you feel. Just getting here for VidCon I was blown away… You get your head around things and I know you’ve experienced that in your life. You might get a promotion or be interviewed for something that comes to your mind [not being good enough], it happens. It arises. The main thing I’m saying here is that you’re going to do things with fear, you’re going to do things with fear, but as a therapist I want to encourage you: do it anyway.
The makers have also taken up the sensitive issue of trigger warnings. The moderator, V Spehar, cited research indicating that trigger warnings can do more harm than good. When asked to share their thoughts, the three therapists appeared to agree with recent research. Shani T said: “People know what they digest. And if they feel like it, they can choose to opt out. I can not tell you that [material] will trigger … because it is up to you to decide whether the content makes you feel or not.”
dr Tracy agreed, “I think so too [trigger] is a very generic word, so will it trigger you? What are your triggers? I also think we took the word a bit too broadly because I have a YouTuber on Instagram who has self-harm scars and people have been asking about trigger warnings for her videos… Her response is, “My body isn’t.” Deduction.'”
While the effectiveness of trigger alerts may be up for debate, the impact of social media on mental health is not. Social media presence is directly correlated with an increased risk of anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, and even physical ailments.
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*Initial publication: June 23, 2022 at 5:13 p.m. CDT
Victoria Gagliardo Silver
Victoria Gagliardo-Silver is deputy news editor at the Daily Dot. You can find her byline in Vice, Teen Vogue, and The Independent, among others.
https://www.dailydot.com/irl/vidcon-social-media-mental-health/ Therapists share their concerns about social media and mental health at VidCon