Facebook and mental health
Facebook have a terrible history of over-riding privacy settings, of manipulating news feeds, of treating their users as commodities. Fine. That’s the price you pay for using their product. I don’t like it, but I get it. Up until now, that’s been a price I’ve been prepared to pay because I like what Facebook does for me. It’s the best way I know of maintaining long-distance friendships. I like the way that Facebook allows you to share the everyday, the mundane, the details that make up lives. To me, those things are at least as important for friendship as the big things of life.
Over the last few years, I’ve struggled a lot with my mental health. Social media has been a huge thing for me in coping with some of the most difficult times. When I’ve felt isolated from the world, internet friends have been consistently there.
It helps to know that other people are there. It helps to see what they had for breakfast, to hear the things their kids have said, to see the pictures of their pets, to know that life goes on.
It helps to know that other people are listening. To know that I can say how I’m feeling and be honest when things are tough, and know that people will hear and respond and love me.
It helps to know that I’m not the only one. To listen and offer words of love to other people who are facing tough times, and especially others who are suffering with depression.
It helps to laugh and be silly. To sort Heyer characters into Harry Potter houses, and to cast the Strictly Come Dancing team as Heyer characters (BOW STREET RUNNER). To forget the things that weigh me down whilst I’m having fun.
LiveJournal. Facebook. Ravelry. Twitter. Blog friends. These communities have been vital for me in recovering and maintaining my mental health.
So, you know what, Facebook, I don’t give my consent to be part of your psychology ‘experiment’. I don’t want you manipulating my feed in an attempt to manipulate my emotions. I daren’t take that risk. Because I know my mental health is fragile and I know how important my Facebook friends are. And if you decide that you’re going to show me the things that create negative emotions, I might not be able to cope. Maybe you already did that. Maybe some of the worst days I’ve had in the last few years were part of your ‘experiment’. How do I know?
I don’t want to go back on the medication. I don’t want to go back to the days where I couldn’t get out of bed. I don’t want to be sick again.
I don’t just feel used by this experiment. I feel threatened by it.
And not just me. There are people with much more serious mental health issues than me. Did you ever stop to think about them, Facebook? Did you ever consider that manipulating people’s emotions could do them serious harm? What about the person with suicidal thoughts? What about your bipolar users? What about the self-harmers? I don’t know how much damage you’ve inflicted, Facebook. I can’t bear to think about it.
I can’t leave Facebook immediately. I have some professional things there that will take a few weeks to disentangle. But I’m going. Because staying is too scary.