Oh memes. If I had been told in high school that I would be writing a mental health blog post about memes in my mid-20’s…-__-“ To a lot of millenials, memes are this childish source of humor that serve as a guilty pleasure. Most are hesitant to admit that they follow 17 different meme accounts, yet their Instagram algorithm has nothing but memes at the top of their feed. You may find yourself rolling your eyes at the very concept of memes, yet you literally just lol’d at one relating to a moth. In fact, you just tagged your best friend with depression in one relating to the perils of antidepressants. What’s going on here?
As silly as they are, memes may actually be doing some good for those struggling with mental health disorders. We know that social media can negatively impact your mental health in several ways, but it is also important to consider how it could be helping those who have mental health struggles. These are three of the following ways that mental health related memes can help those who are living with mental health disorders.
Memes help foster online communities of people who can relate to the struggles of mental illness. For several people who are debilitated on a day-to-day basis by mental illness, it can feel impossible to have any connection to someone who is going through what you’re going through. You may feel like a burden for reaching out to your friends whenever you’re in a dark place, so you crawl into your bed, and scroll through your feed. You see a funny/relatable mental health meme, you blow air forcibly out your nose, and double tap. What you also see are the thousands of other people who also liked the same meme, and the several hundred comments of people tagging their friends. Kind of hard to feel alone now, right?
Memes help start the conversation about mental health. It’s easy for me to talk to other social workers and counselors about mental health because they are so enmeshed within the culture. What’s more difficult is opening up with peers that don’t seem to associate with the mental health community at all. They may think that topics like depression or anxiety “kill the mood”. Those uplifting messages designed to motivate those struggling with mental disorders? Corny, cheesey, and disingenuous. And as someone who is directly connected with the mental health community, I find myself agreeing with these folk at times. It gets so old.
Let’s continue from the example I had in my last paragraph. You find this super relatable meme about depression, and decide to tag one of your close friends. You’re not as hesitant to bring up the topic of depression because it’s in meme form. They’re funny, and they’re used for entertainment purposes. You’re sending the message, “this meme is super funny because we relate to it--because we’re both struggling with mental illness that is debilitating as hell--but we’re in this together, so it’s way less hellish”. It doesn’t kill the mood because it’s funny, and it also doesn’t come across as disingenuous because it’s frank. It gets straight to the message in a way that only a person struggling with depression can adequately communicate.
Memes spread awareness of mental health issues to populations that otherwise wouldn’t know about these issues. Memes are helping start the conversation within populations of people who struggle with mental illness, and they are also extending this conversation to others who do not struggle with mental illness. We follow our friends on social media for a number of reasons: we went to middle school with them, we find their posts funny, we like shopping at their online store, we worked with them over the summer during high school. Social media allows a connection between different networks of people that would not have been connected otherwise. You may repost a mental health meme on your story, which is seen by almost all of your followers. They may click through to the source, and see the large amounts of people who have liked and commented on the photo. What this shows them is the reality of mental illness: it is widespread and rampant. The large numbers of people liking these photos signal a high level of relatability, meaning that there are large numbers of people who live with mental disorders. This outside recognition is great for the mental health community; it brings more awareness to the struggle, and shows the level of impact that mental disorders have on our population at large.
So before you pass judgment on a meme—especially one relating to mental illness—consider the benefits that it has for those in the mental health community. Your guilty pleasure may actually be helping those who feel debilitated by the impact of mental illness, so you may not have to feel so guilty about it after all!
Marissa Martin, Counseling Intern
I use LinkedIn often, probably 5-6 times a week. I've been an avid user since 2012. My then-boss encouraged me to create a profile so I could find sales prospects. This platform offered me the perfect tools to connect with people I met, or to get introductions to decision makers in order to close a sale. I've built a robust network over time, and I've learned a lot along the way. Things like:
In the past, I was quite guilty of just clicking away to see who would accept a request.
I was once one of The Strangers. It was totally a numbers game a few years ago, kind of like online dating. Now, I only send a request if I've met the person, or if I have a business purpose for connecting.
As a sex coach, and one who proudly lists this without any euphemisms on my profile, I get a lot of connection requests from The Strangers now. Like, a lot, a lot.
The Strangers are mostly men, but there have been a few ladies in the mix. However, with the ladies, usually, I look at their profiles and find that they are trainers, nutritionists, doctors, or in the health and wellness field in some capacity. I will gladly connect with both women and men in these areas, but I send them a quick note to start a conversation and try to schedule a coffee or lunch together after a few emails. It's about connecting, not collecting, right?!
But the male Strangers, well, they aren't always looking for business chit-chat.
Since last fall, I have been doing what Johnson recommended in his blog post. I now send The Strangers a polite message saying, "Thanks for the request. I don't usually connect with people I've not met before. Did we meet recently and I've forgotten, or do you have a business purpose for wanting to connect with me?" Simple and to the point.
I've gotten the full gambit of responses:
I get it - everyone uses this platform differently, and etiquette is complicated. My goal is to give people the opportunity to actually express their intentions with my message. Maybe they don't hold the same reverence for the Connect button as I do, or they just aren't savvy with the iPad app and were licking Connect on suggestion after suggestion. Maybe they are new to the area and are just trying to build their network, or worse, we met and I forgot! Maybe they really just wanna get laid.
Whatever it is, I'm finding out before clicking Accept.
Johnson and I recently discussed my experience with LinkedIn since becoming a sex coach when we ran into one another, which led me to reach out for a more in-depth conversation about what could be behind some users' behavior. I wanted to discuss The Strangers and get his perspective on using LinkedIn as anything other than a business site. Because it's complicated...
We admit there's certainly got to be users on LinkedIn that have used it as a dating site with success, even though we don't personally know someone who has (Pssst...if you met your spouse on LI, email me please). But, by and large, users are on there for business only. Not. To. Find. Dates.
Now, I admit I've checked out my share of profiles after someone pops up and I find their picture attractive, but I don't send connection requests just because I think a dude is smokin' hot. Light creeping is fine. I think it's on par these days with checking out someone at the pool from afar.
Simply put, he and I agree LinkedIn is not a dating site.
But, we kinda get why some people treat it as such. Really the problem isn't trying to find a date on there. The problem lies in one's approach.
Johnson said he is fascinated by people's use of social media platforms in relation to their emotional baggage. He noted that many people, especially men, were taught to not address their emotions, and did not learn communication skills as children. Who hasn't heard this before, right? "A lot of people don't do the work" to overcome the baggage we all gather in life. They don't grow and take that next step of letting it all go.
Many people are not good communicators, Johnson said very bluntly. "Your entire (childhood) you're told to not communicate, feel, or express emotions…now you're in the real world." And guess what? You have to use your words. Your adult relationships at home, work, and in public rely on quality communication. And many of us suck at it! We carry that baggage everywhere, even to LI. You may very well just want to connect for strictly business reasons. But if you don't tell the person on the receiving end why you want to connect, it leaves them wondering. Then their baggage can have an effect on the exchange.
"Approach matters. I always recommend you send connection requests from your laptop." Sending the personalized message along with your request noting why you want to connect is important. It provides much-needed context. Johnson notes a design flaw - clicking Connect from your mobile device does not allow you this opportunity easily. "It's not obvious. Go to a profile and click the three little dots. You'll see an option to personalize the invite."
I look to see if the person wanting to connect has actually looked at my profile, too. If you haven't, well, then I can only assume a few things. You don't know what I'm about and you don't want to connect to learn about my business, my services, or my goals. You're probably not going to be a valuable component of my network, and you're probably not going to send me referrals.
Plus, in today's digital world, there are plenty of ways to connect with someone. Look at their profile and see if they have their Twitter handle listed. Look them up on Facebook. Whatever! There are alternatives. Use them.
What if you just can't resist?
Say you're on LinkedIn one day, and you see a woman that is attractive. You click on her profile. Then you find that she's got a great job, she works with some charities that you support as well, she's actually pretty cool and seems smart, and now you're interested in more than just that business connection. What do you do? Our recommendation - tread lightly. "You don't know what she's experienced before you sent her that request," said Johnson.
This is true! Maybe she just got 6 requests from other Strangers, and someone bothered her in her DM's earlier on Twitter, she got whistled at by the construction crew down the street while walking her dog, so she's not in the mood to entertain what she perceives as creeping on her profile.
Again, approach matters!
If you do go out for coffee and there's no spark, you left it open enough to fall back on just being business buds or networking connections. Or, maybe you'll make a rad new friend!
I have had some wonderful conversations with people since I started Johnson's approach to The Strangers. People have come back with responses about their business and how we could work together, that they have a non-profit I may find interesting, that they were given my card by a friend, and many more business-relatedreasons. And I want to be clear - I do not think every man who doesn't send a note indicating why they want to connect is just trying to score a date. My point is, state your intent from the beginning with a message accompanying your request so I don't have to guess or ask!
There's no perfect way to find your potential next partner, but you can certainly up your chances of not striking out. Want to learn more ways how? Follow my blog or email me for a one-on-one session.
You can find Mic Johnson on LinkedIn.
Kristen Thomas is the Owner and Head Coach of Open the Doors Coaching, LLC. She helps people nurture their love lives as a relationship, dating and sex coach. Follow Kristen via Twitter @openthedoorskc, Facebook, and Instagram @openthedoorscoaching. Need help with your sex life or relationship? Striking out on dating sites? Email her at Kristen@openthedoorscoaching.com.
"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."
Overdress to Impress
Robin Helget, LMSW, CPT
Millennial Coach & Consultant