Romanticization of mental illness on social media outlets dangerous

Opinions Columnist | Journalism Sophomore

Students who regularly use the Internet should be careful to not get caught up in the romanticism of mental illnesses that is prevalent all over the web, but especially on the blogging platform Tumblr.

Tumblr is a popular website that allows users to interact with each other and customize personal blogs. Users can post videos, quotes and text, but the majority of the site is image-based. One facet of Tumblr that makes it so popular is the micro-communities that have formed on the site. For just about every conceivable interest users could have, there is a group of people on Tumblr that share that interest and interact with each other.

Among these many micro-communities are ones devoted to offering support for those dealing with anxiety, abusive relationships and a number of other issues. Unfortunately, many of these Tumblr communities have developed a problematic way to deal with mental distress and illnesses. The site has become peppered with black and white photos of forlorn landscapes emblazoned with negative quotes such as “I don’t need you to make me feel like crap. I do that myself.”

The issue with this behavior is that it romanticizes mental illness and encourages self-destructive behavior. Tumblr dresses up self-harm and self-hate to be almost glamorous. Negative emotions are seen as things that set users aside from “normal” people who cannot understand their struggles. Pain and mental illness are seen as beautiful and even encouraged. Pretty pictures of people doing destructive things should have no place on such websites.

People feel isolated from normal life because of things they go through, and the Internet can be a safe haven. Seeing people engaging in the same types of struggles as oneself on a platform as worldwide as Tumblr can be very encouraging. However, just as seeing pictures of skinny models in magazines can worsen symptoms of eating and body image disorders, viewing glamorized pictures and quotes about anxiety and depression can trigger self-destructive behavior.  

There is nothing romantic about being an emotionally crippled person. There is nothing special or quirky about being incapable of carrying on a casual conversation with a stranger because of anxiety. I am not blaming those dealing with mental illness or distress for having self-destructive emotions or behaviors. I just think the attitude toward mental health on websites like Tumblr is unhealthy. Poems, photos and stories romanticizing illnesses do not help anyone, and in many cases only serve to promote and trigger problems in others.

Mental illnesses are not something to romanticize. They should be taken seriously and dealt with in a positive and encouraging manner. Encouraging negative behavior and attitudes is not helpful. Tumblr users should take care not to get caught up in the romanticism of destructive behavior. Mental illness is not a topic that should be examined through rose-colored glasses.