Is Social Media Bad For Mental Health?

The web is a source of information & a way to connect w/others in similar situations. It can give hope & support but is social media bad for mental health?

When my husband was very ill, he had turned toward the cyber world for support. He joined chat rooms, Face Book pages/groups, and Twitter. I was happy that he was joining his community of people who also suffered with bipolar disorder. I thought it was great that he found a group of people with whom he could discuss things openly with and that they would understand him. That is until I decided to venture into this world. I began to watch the pages and the people he was talking to on-line. I was absolutely shocked by what I found.

Just like my husband, people tended to get involved with social media when they were in a state of crisis. The people in manic states littered the sites with flirting, grandiosity and bad behaviour. I could see unsuspecting people needing real help being targeted by others not because they wanted to support them but as prey to fulfil their personal hyper sexuality symptoms. I found posts glorifying alcohol, gambling and other addictions. Gee, I can’t see anything going wrong with that on-line!

The people in depressive states varied from ones that were mildly experiencing a drop in mood to people on the brink of suicide. This group was especially vulnerable to the online influences. They already felt excruciatingly bad about themselves. I found myself questioning the motives of some people based on the support and advice they would give to someone in a suicidal crisis. I can’t even count the number of times I have seen people advise others to adjust their own meds or stop taking their meds altogether.

But for the most part, I understand those two groups. More often than not, their interaction on-line is usually a reflection of their current state of mind and that is just a part of their illness.

The third group on these sites is the one that I find is the most destructive. This group consists of people that use their diagnosis as a crutch. They use social media to validate their belief that there is nothing they can do to better themselves or their situation and they support others in their effort to do the same.

These people promote themselves as the norm and that there is no point in getting treatment, life sucks, your situation will never change so why bother doing anything about it. Their daily routine is attacking anyone that is not one of “them” with the good ol’ standby of “you don’t understand mental illness”. They enjoy wallowing in their misery and anyone that doesn’t acknowledge their right to do so is dismissed as being not supportive.

And this group extends into the caregivers category as well. They let the mental illness take over their families, harm their relationships and their children. They do not set boundaries and become co-dependent in an awful cycle of bad behaviour on both parts. They either don’t know how to change or have given up even trying so they want you to believe that you are just wasting your time and you should just accept your situation and give up too.

Listen, I get it, believe me, I do. Many times I have felt like there was nothing that could be done. The system sucks. You can’t get the right help when you need it. People don’t believe you. They tell you to get over it. I understand. Totally. But there is always hope. I try hard to be that voice that says, it can get better. That is why I began to blog. To show others that you can have a good relationship and a great life with the right tools even when your spouse suffers with a mental illness.

My life as a caregiver is very hard. I try to understand and support my spouse as best I can. That means encouraging positivity and treatment and providing a home full of understanding and support. It is so discouraging when you are knocked back to square one when your spouse engages with these negative people online or when you reach out for help as a caregiver and someone in the same situation as you is making you feel defeated.

There is hope!

I have met some amazing and wonderful people online. They are on twitter and face book and many have blogs. It is so astonishing to me to see these people go through their own struggles but still stay positive and encouraging to others. They discuss treatment and stability and offer a gentle nudge when needed. These people promote mental health. These are the people you need to find online. There are so many I could list but I would hate to leave someone out so my suggestion is for you to find just one. Follow them, chat with them and see who they interact with. You will find a whole community of like-minded people behind them.

On a closing note, when you do find these people online, spread the word. Help others find them too. RT them, like their face book pages and share their blog posts. Be one of the ones that promotes and spreads mental health awareness.


Disclaimer: I am not a therapist or a doctor. This post is based solely on my personal experiences and should not be deemed as advice or counsel. Please seek appropriate medical attention from a licensed professional.
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  1. So much to say…so much you made me think about…
    I too have a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder. I think perhaps because I was diagnosed in my 30s I found this more liberating than crushing. It helped me reframe behaviors that I had loathed as “who I am” as symptoms. Instead of simply shrugging and saying that symptoms were unavoidable I used medication, behavioral changes and awareness to try to alter my actions. Before the label I just hated these things about me. Like you I see the good and the bad of the internet. Generally I try to stay away from groups that are geared towards mental health. I have found that a three dimensional team- my pyschiatrist, my husband, my self are always going to be more responsive to the nuances of care that a particular situation requires. By definition whatever we share of ourselves online has been fed through a filter. The filter of how we see the world at just that moment. My main work is to equalize those feelings, to recognize that it is never quite as dark or quite as exhilirating as it may seem. Life is always both/and not either/or. Life is what happens in the middle of the spectrum. In that online group we might sensationalize things in our call and response. Which can then ratchet up replies in number and in intensity. I write about my day, my sex life, and my experience with mental health yet I don’t use the responses I get as anything more than another strand in the delicate web of relationships that we all cultivate. Allowing each response to have its proper weight is tricky, finding balance in anything is tricky, but it is worthwhile. I hope people in your husband’s group can find comfort in one another while still receiving their primary care from a core group of three dimensional people that see them every day, and don’t believe everything they say.

    1. It sounds like you have found a winning combination and I totally agree with all of your points. My hubby also found it very reassuring when he was diagnosed. A true A-HA moment. There were times he did fight certain parts of his care but now that he sees what his life can be like when he is consistent, he is 100% compliant. Thank you so much for your insight and I am so glad you shared your observations for others to read.

  2. Interesting views. I have joined forums where i think I may be able to offer help and advice, but have come across those who see their condition as a crutch, and as what defines them. I have removed myself from commenting on them, and pray that thye will search out help, and fine me As a Chiropractor I now have an acronym for those who have read and applied advice from the internet. OTAOG “On the Advice of Google”!

    1. All that advice for free online can be very over-whelming and sometimes dangerous. Commenting on those forums can be so hard when all you are trying to do is offer a helping hand and then it puts you out there for criticism too. That’s just not fair.

  3. I have had to work hard to maintain a sense of control and safety in my internet travels. I have been online since the beginning and I’ve seen moments of real love and support in groups, especially early on. I also see now, too much posturing, pretending, and the damage it does to individuals with low self-esteem. The internet in general gives us the feeling of being connected to others, but how connected are we really? For those we’ve never met face to face, we can talk, but can we call them in our time of need? Keeping a balance between long distance talking support and real live people support where we are is essential, especially for those in pain. Good post!

  4. Great post here Elena. Everyone seems to google everything these days. The trick is exactly what you said, to get involved with the right support groups. Many forums found on google have random people from all walks of life, and nobody should be giving medical advice to anybody if they’re not qualified. Many people can be easily lead astray. 🙂

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