Is talking about mental health on social media actually trivializing its importance?

During mental health week, I’ve come across huge movements on Facebook, on Instagram and on other social media platforms which talk about the importance of mental health, giving us a platform to break the taboos that are associated with mental disorders. Gone are the days when we would shy away from conversations about therapists and medication. Much to the benefit of the narcotics industry, mood stabilizers and antidepressants are pretty much in the mainstream now.

However, like most other conversations and debates taking place in comment threads, mental health has ventured into a territory that is rapidly slipping through the cracks of commercialisation and weaponization. The current generation uses the word ‘depression’ lightly, which is not their fault entirely. Depression is a term that had been thrown around way too much to describe the slightest melancholia experienced during adolescence or loss of jobs. However, we are entering a phase where people are claiming to have epilepsy and ADHD and bipolarism on social media to gimmick the foundations of what makes them the people they are. Sure, it’s okay to be a bad person and own up to it but it’s beyond unethical to use mental disorders which actually alter the courses of the lives of people to try and weasel out of inconveniences caused by being held accountable for your actions.

Terms like clinical depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder, kleptomania, pathological lying multiple personalities, and anger have been thrown into a reductive box through which we try and defend our ‘issues’. Now the problem isn’t pondering with the idea of placing your issues within a category but to expect unconditional forgiveness and clemency due to having those issues. Fitting into the role of a victim and expecting people around you to bear with behavioural disorders is selfish to say the least. The appropriate way to deal with a mental illness is to try and limit the effects it can have on your personality so that individuals who have signed up for your life do not have to sacrifice their own truths to uphold yours. I myself have suffered from relentless depression for years and have put my close friends and family through borderline torture for the most part of the time when I refused diagnosis. But it’s just as toxic to expect those around you to pick up the pieces of your destructive tendencies. Weaponization of mental health to trivialize the plight of those around you who don’t have the means or the privilege to write paragraphs about it on Facebook is a major setback of the capitalist mentality that we have ingrained as a generation growing up on a socially imposed condition to advertise our lives brazenly.

Why do women find it harder to get out of relationships than men?

Last week I finished a Netflix series called ‘Dead to Me’. An unmistakable facet of the fourth wave of feminism has ushered in literature about the ability of women to ‘be whole’ without the (illusion or otherwise) of stability that men offer us. And I started wondering, why aren’t there television shows/ movies/ literature that primarily focus on a bunch of men after a breakup? What is it about women that makes us fundamentally vulnerable to the whole “break-up phase”, where white women will almost inevitably go through a power trip where they “reinvent” themselves?

The answer was very simple to me, really. As women, we have an inbuilt system of providing and care-giving built within us. Well, not all women. But most of us. In my four years in one of the premier hotbeds of liberal feminism, I have been shocked repeatedly to discover that women tend to shape a significant portion of their lives around the men they’re with. But it would be wrong to say that we’re selfless in these ventures. As a woman who has always wanted to carve out her own identity, I too am guilty of having made it my mission to be with a man who would in some form help me to realize the aspirations I wanted to achieve. Of course, things really took a turn when I actually started to love the person I am with. The point is, we make this stability that is given us by a male pillar in our life a significant part of our identity.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with a girlfriend wherein we spoke about how we actually actively think about our relationships, as something to be crafted meticulously instead of something to go home to. Somewhere, these heterosexual relationships become a part of our job, assuming as much importance in our lives as our careers would. And honestly, that’s an additional stressor we could do without. What more often than not happens is that from the very start we tend to overthink about our romantic lives, leading to feminist Netflix series which glorify the violent behaviour of women as a reaction to the injustices done to us by men who fail to live up to our standards. And looking at these characterisations, we see ourselves because most of us lose our minds by putting an unbearable amount of pressure on ourselves to “keep men”.

I recently watched Greta Gerwig’s ‘Little Women’ and the point of the ending really changed my life. A little bit. Jo March was a woman way ahead of her time, because our mothers still believe that it’s important to settle down to find peace in life. Jo did not want to be tied down by the limitations of marriage, she wanted to “sink her own canoe”. But of course, Louisa May Alcott’s novel would never have made waves the way it did unless the protagonist found the ultimate happy ending that is prescribed to all women, never mind she is a genius and one of the handful of women of her time who managed to be a critically acclaimed novelist whose message lives on for centuries. Unfortunately, this interweaving of our lives with a need for stability has not escaped us, even today now that we have university education, accolades, freedom to be sexually active and money of our own to spend.

In western liberal culture, the breaking away from relationships is relatively more acceptable, probably because these women didn’t grow up watching “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai”, where “Pyaar Ek Hi Baar Hota Hai, Shaadi Bhi Ek Hi Baar Hota Hai” is something I would actually say to myself before going to bed every night after I broke up for the first time in fucking high school. And to exacerbate the problem, many of our families and many many men of our regressive society subscribe to this same notion.

‘Four More Shots’ in Amazon Prime may be an unrealistic portrayal of the liberties Indian women are allowed in this society, but if it gives the average non-intellectual female watcher an impetus to own their spinstership the way Jo March of the mid-19th century did, then we should welcome that ‘Sex and the City’ ripoff with open arms. Let’s take another pop culture reference close to home – the iconic leaving the husband scene in ‘Made in Heaven’ Season 1, where Tara broke the male-dependent life she built for herself in a wealthy South Delhi household and headed out to “sink her own canoe”. Of course, in a society where women still build their identity around the men they choose to give them stability, and eventually let go of their own personalities in the process, using unfair means to break up a marriage and lure a man into a relationship can be perceived as an act of ambition.

I think it’s time that we women stopped having break up parties and looked at ourselves in the mirror day after a breakup and told ourselves that nothing has changed. Relationships come and go. It shouldn’t be something you mark on your calendar.

I identify as an angry Facebook comment.

The past week has been eye-opening for most of us. Our generation of feminists will be best remembered for starting the culture of “outing” the perpetrators of sexual and emotional violence against our kind on platforms where the man/woman’s character goes through the trial of public opinion. Through this post, I’d like to examine the facets of this culture.

I made a Facebook post myself last week, iterating my account of one of the most difficult years and a half of my life, yet. Like many others before me, I have been a victim of the structural denial that has favoured men in power for eons before my time. It was not my intention to malign the people in my surroundings, and at some point I will end up apologizing to anyone who had been triggered by my putting my society under the scanner. A lot has been said since, on Facebook, in WhatsApp groups, about the practical consequences of a call-out culture. The unwritten rules of this culture lay down that the one who calls out has to be believed irrevocably. There is nothing wrong with that proposition in theory. There is no denying that women, and men, for that matter have been the subjects of harrassment and suppression due to our patriarchal society structures, formally and informally. Nepotism too is a patriarchal idea, wherein generations before me have ended up favouring those who have been able to play the right cards with those in power. More than pure talent, an ability to conform has been the order of progress for the longest time.

As Michel Foucault says, resistance often exists within the structures of power itself. Power is not merely a possession, it is performative. Personally, I look at “working the system” as a more feasible alternative to street politics or aggressive demonstrations of dissent. But of course, I’m willing to be educated on the effectiveness of making your voice heard as well. Only, in my experience even within one of the most liberal islands in the nation, opposition politics has not quite escaped the inner workings of nepotism.

The day after I called out my abuser on a public forum, I deleted my post. I was going through an inner conflict after observing the direction this particular phase of the #metoo movement has been taking.

A. The survivor is believed irrevocably. Which is how it should be. For any individual coming out with a traumatic story, there should be unflinching support and sensitivity.

B. The alleged perpetrator is bashed publicly, leading to the equivalent of a virtual mob-lynching. I have been a close witness to an incident where a friend was called out for making a woman uncomfortable, which he was not made privy to by the victim. She spoke up regarding the incident an year after the eventuality itself, which is completely understandable, given the reality of the positions we are in within an academic circle. However, the insults that were hurled at the man for not knowing the entirety of what he had done were vicious, and any neutral comments made regarding the same, were countered with hostility and aggressiveness.

C. Reducing the perpetrator to a ‘shameless rapist’ without consideration for the degree of the crimes he has committed is just as responsible in causing trauma as making someone uncomfortable.

D. ‘Enablers’ – We are all enablers. We are all part of the problem that allows abusers to walk free without consequence. What is really required to address this misogynistic, exploitative culture is ingraining students with an education of empathy from a young age. Enabling a perpetrator is never an individual’s fault, it is the fault of the system. Reducing the reality of one’s situation to “enabling” a perpetrator is also a part of the problem. Why? Because we all have different ways of manifesting the damage that society has done to us.

The call-out culture has been as detrimental to mental health as the inability of the legal system to address issues that cause people everyday grief. It has absolute power wherein the one accused and the people surrounding them are all made prey to a shameless exhibition of public violence, and it is a system that needs to be dealt with more responsibly if it continues to exist.

Finally, the angry Facebook comment. While we have every right to ‘snap’ at an entity who would try to vindictively smear our character in a social media forum, hate speech only fuels hate speech. On the flip side, the system rewards balanced arguments made as a form of discourse, which almost inevitably turns into a full-blown “comment war”, which makes little sense for a generation that tries to fight with reason as opposed to sentiment.