A s a high school student, I absolutely loved Tumblr. You know, that blogging site where you can lose hours of your life scrolling through pictures from music and TV fanatics, girls with film cameras and animal enthusiasts. I once came across a post that affectionately referred to the platform as the “feminist cat website.” That about sums it up.
Initially my blog did not have much thoughtful content — mostly reblogs of pictures of my favorite bands, funny comics and the occasional reflections on my daily life. Now, I’ve tried to use it as a creative outlet to get feedback for my writing and connect with similar users. Of all of the entertainment Tumblr has provided me over the years, the one thing it introduced me to as a young teenager was the disturbingly alarming glorification of serious personal problems. The new romantic icon online was the teen who lived in mental anguish and vented on their social media sites for everyone to see. There is no doubt that many suffer from serious mental health or other issues, only to be dismissed by their peers and older adults — I myself was one of them. But there is another segment of the young adult population that does not have these issues but instead likes to dabble in them, trying them on like an outfit and hoping to gain notice from others.
Attention-seeking posts in the aftermath of teen suicides, one of the highest causes of death for young people, saying things such as “reblog and get this post 20,000 notes and I won’t cut tonight,” were common displays. The dramatic, overemotional, lonely, love-obsessed juvenile whose hobbies included self-harm and crying alone was apparently the ideal to strive for. People bragged about having pseudo-nervous breakdowns and begged their internet followers and real life friends to be gentle with their fragile, self-centered egos.
I can tell you that the inside of a hospital is not a place you want to end up in. It isn’t attractive to be anxious about the smallest of interactions, to wake up in the morning and find yourself never wanting to get out of bed. Nor is it fun playing trial and error with doctors and prescriptions to find the right cocktail to keep you sane.
These attempts to be cool and edgy, combined with even more hazardous behaviors such as smoking and drinking at a young age and calling it “poetic,” mask the silent pleas of those who really need help.
The truly ill are not looking to be congratulated for their problems. They are hiding them to avoid the questioning and probing of family and friends. They do not take pride when they cut or otherwise harm themselves, they are sitting in their room wondering if they can stop themselves before getting to the point of no return.Drug addiction very quickly stops being fun and starts draining a person’s health, relationships and stability. It isn’t something to be laughed off or beautified.
Even as college students, we still take pride in these destructive behaviors. We brag about how little sleep we had the night before. We make bets with ourselves on how long we can go without eating before we pass out. We toss around words like “panic attacks” and “schizo” with our buddies, completely oblivious to our classmates who might actually be suffering from these disorders. About 20 percent of Americans suffer from some sort of mental illness. The struggles of anxiety, depression, addiction and other psychological issues are not filled with moments of boastfulness, but those of shame and isolation.
It is time we stop encouraging young people to play the game of who is the most damaged, and instead give them the strength to endure and help their loved ones cope with their illnesses. We need to stop seeing mental health problems as something to fear and especially as something to romanticize.
Katiera Sordjan is a College junior from New York. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. "The Melting Pot" appears every Thursday.