Few would deny that there has been a trend of “oversharing” online. Sure, we all have a handful of friends whose Facebook posts could fill 500 page tell-all memoirs, but that’s not what I’m referring to here.
I’m talking about the sort of vulnerability-porn we’re seeing with the rise of internet celebrity, where creators spill their guts to an audience they cannot see.
Social media is a psychological enabler. It enables the everyday person to broadcast their darkest thoughts instead of getting help. This problem is exacerbated by internet celebrities who do this on a massive scale.
I don’t believe people who overshare online are necessarily ill-intentioned. It feels good to talk about yourself, and when there’s the perception of not wanting to be a burden on your immediate circle, it feels less destructive to talk to your camera or phone. But it is destructive. This trend is damaging to audiences and creators alike.
Documenting your darkest moments–mental illness-induced or otherwise–is not as useful as you might think. There are significant but less tangible costs. Not only does it inhibit your ability to self-heal, but it also presents a concerning image and sets a poor example. You may think you’re providing solace for those in the same boat as you, but really you’re sending the message that posting cries for help online is a sound coping mechanism.
Author E.B. White put it well when he said that:
Creators “do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.” The role of the creator is “to lift people up, not lower them down.”
Rehearsing negativity will only increase negativity.
I’m not suggesting internet creators stop talking about mental illness entirely. The stigma is real, and talking about it is important. But for those in the thick of it, what’s most important is getting better. Not only is it nearly impossible to heal in public, but from the audience’s perspective it’s more encouraging to listen to someone whose illness is behind them (even if only for the time being. I acknowledge that many deal with these issues on-and-off for their whole lives).
Oversharing has become a trend, one that’s destructive to creators and audiences alike. When you become overly reliant on affirmation from your audience, your artistic motivations are compromised. You stop acting in your audience’s best interest. You probably don’t even realize it.