#MeToo: When Social Media Can Actually Destigmatize
And judging by my Facebook feed, #YouToo.
For those living under a Facebook rock, the #MeToo hashtag exposes just how pervasive sexual violence is. It lives in seedy basement frat houses and corporate halls of power. And while I frequently disparage social media activism (it is more social than activism — at least from my perspective), the #MeToo hashtag resonates more than #ThrowbackThursday, #FlashbackFriday, or some other silly social media moniker.
Why? Because for many sexual assault survivors, silence is a death sentence. You suffer in tortured agony; your inner turmoil cloaked in a cheery countenance. But underneath that forced smile, you are suffocating under the weight of searing self-flagellation: Why me? Did I do something wrong? Maybe this is my fault (it isn’t)?
Perhaps because of my own experiences, I am more sensitive to sexual assault’s scars. And, at times, society’s collective shoulder shrug emoji to sexual assault’s brutality. From snickering, “What were you doing out at 2 am wearing that?” bromides to searing accusations about a victim’s sexual history, rape culture is alive and well. Indeed, a Twitter spokesman confirmed that #MeToo had been tweeted out nearly half a million times during the first 24 hours. Scrolling through my friends’ social media feeds, I alternated belief disbelief and disgust. Grab it (that would be my undivided attention) by the tweet.
While commending sexual assault survivors for exposing an ugly — and inescapable — truth, I naturally wondered how social media could transform other deep-seated traumas (see health, mental). According to Dr. Emma Seppala of Stanford University, a public declaration fosters a sense of solidarity. “Having your friends and those close to you will help give you courage to do the same. When people similar to you are willing to disclose something, it can set up a ripple effect. You can become more comfortable being vulnerable,” she comments.
What does #MeToo then mean for you, me, and the nearly 25 million mental health consumers?
As opposed to languishing in self-imposed isolation, it means that an empathetic support system is a status update away (yes, social media is more than pumpkin patch photos and self-congratulatory memes). In fact, this young woman credits Facebook for recovering from an eating disorder. In my case, social media has been a powerful tool — one that has fortified me to openly discuss my mental health trials and tribulations.
For many of us — myself included, our Facebook feed is a support group. We celebrate milestones — from freshman orientation to Fido’s adoption — together. We write pithy status updates and then count the number of “likes” — at least I do. But as the #MeToo movement proves, we can celebrate something more than your kid’s admittedly cute second grade selfie. Or the number of likes your new profile pic received.
#MeToo, in many cases, means #YouToo. As we destigmatize mental health — one article and, yes, even one Facebook status at a time, here is the ultimate FaceBrag: a strong, sympathetic network of support to chart life’s — and mental health’s — uncertainties.
Matt Loeb (and 25 million other mental health consumers) just liked your post.
Loeb, M. (2018). #MeToo: When Social Media Can Actually Destigmatize. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 8, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/metoo-when-social-media-can-actually-destigmatize/