The negative relationship between mental health and social media isn’t news to anyone. There are endless studies carried out to examine the effect scrolling through Facebook has on people’s emotional and mental state. However, with the rapid rise of other social giants, like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, perhaps studies dedicated to Facebook aren’t quite as relevant or conclusive as we had once thought. The relationship between the internet and our health has seen some changes over current years, such as the recent collaboration of the NHS with Amazon’s Alexa to help provide health information via voice search.
This got us thinking, could the internet work as a service to help our health both physically and mentally? Could it help the strain on the health service by cutting down waiting times for mental health support? Some people certainly think so and are flocking to social media for mental health support…introducing ‘Insta-therapy’.
What is ‘Insta-therapy’?
‘Insta-therapy’ is exactly what it sounds like – a therapist on Instagram. So, you’re probably wondering what they do, how this works and why has it become a thing? To be honest, so am I. Essentially, these ‘insta-therapists’ use Instagram as a platform to promote content surrounding aspects of mental health, from grief and depression, to self-care and emotional growth, with general life struggles thrown in for good measure.
This content is designed to support followers, spread psychological insights and ultimately promote positive mental health. After scrolling through a couple of the most influential therapist accounts (including @lisaolivertherapy, @nedratawwab & @the.holistic.psychologist & @notesfromyourtherapist), I can confirm these accounts could be summed up simply with the ‘live, laugh, love’ quote. The top therapist accounts I found have over 200K followers for simply posting optimistic and encouraging quotes, poems and motivational advice.
Why is it a thing?
You might be wondering why these influencers have seen a boom in popularity. Largely, this is probably down to the increase in mental health understanding & self-care. With long waiting lists for an NHS therapist and the sheer cost of going private, ‘insta-therapy’ might be there only immediate source of support for thousands. Think about it, it’s easily accessible, there for you anytime (even at 3AM) and best of all, it’s free – what more could you need?!
Over the years many social media users, including celebrities like Kanye West and Millie Bobby Brown, have quit Instagram due to the negative impact it had on their lives. In particular, users have spoken out about feeling of loneliness and envy when using the app because of the content they see. Think Kim K on a £2 million yacht in an exotic part of the world, when users see this daily they start comparing their lives to these celebrities and unrealistic goals. This is bound to make most users feel, at best, slightly underwhelmed with life. With this in mind, those seeking Instagram ‘therapy’ physically need to spend more time on the app to access posts from therapists they follow. In my mind, that doesn’t quite add up.
Should people be using ‘insta-therapy’?
After looking into these ‘insta-therapy’ accounts, I find almost all of them to be more mindfulness based with motivational posts and self-care sprinkled throughout than actual therapy. Although this might help some users, it’s important to remember these accounts might not always be created by a professional, and secondly, ‘insta-therapy’ definitely doesn’t replace seeing a therapist face to face. Right now, I can’t imagine these therapy accounts are doing any damage to users, however, if followers start relying too heavily on these accounts they could eventually have a damaging effect. As it stands, we don’t have the answers as to how this will effect users. However, I’m sure a committee somewhere will most definitely carry out studies to examine the effect on people’s emotional and mental state from ‘insta-therapy’. Only time will tell…