The Rise Of The Social Media Mental Breakdown

The Bridge: Technology has allowed for major advancements in mental health education, primarily through the visibility neurodivergent people have online. However, Gabbie Hannah’s recent breakdown (which she’s self-documented via TikTok) raises concerns about the way we consume and handle serious mental illness when confronted with it online.

Like Deja Vu 

Technology has steered mental health advancements alongside Gen-Z’s orientation towards social justice and inclusion. Social media has turned safe-space for neurodivergent people’s expression, allowing them a nuanced platform that doesn’t always exist in real life. There’s numerous benefits to this, but there are also drawbacks to navigating mental illness online.

Gabbie Hannah, a 31 year old internet celebrity, has been causing a stir amongst her 7.8 million TikTok followers, following her posting spree on the platform this past week. In a nutshell, she’s been uploading 100’s of videos showing textbook delusions of grandeur and mania – spurring fans to contact the LAPD for a wellness check and psych evaluation. Shocker.

Gabbie passed her wellness check, and labeled it harrassment. Which…is kind of valid.

On one hand, this could save someone from harming themselves or others, but it could also be used as a tool for swatting and harassment. People online are weird, and don’t always have the purest intentions, bringing to mind the element of entertainment in all of this.

A lot of people are laughing at Gabbie. Again…valid, considering the platform and her career as an internet character/meme.

It’s almost as if Barney Rubble is the one having the breakdown – no offense.

Social media rewards manic and outlandish behavior with views and encouraging comments from the peanut gallery. Older (and arguably crueler) generations may find humor in these sorts of breakdowns, but for Gen-Z, it’s often difficult to decipher between crisis and content.

15 Minutes of Fame 

Tech’s impact upon mental health advocacy includes digital therapy, easier access to mental health groups and resources, and the mass push for mental health awareness in media and other non-tech industries. This is why Gen-Z is so savvy when it comes to making space for neurodivergence, but when does that shift into enabling?

If we saw a friend playing in traffic, we would stop them. If we saw our kids yelling profanities in the street, we would definitely stop them, but outside interference (like taking away someone’s phone, or locking them out of their account) of unhinged behavior online is often perceived as silencing. A big no-no in the Z Generation.

So what do we do?

The answer lies somewhere between us and the apps. Tech has yet to put services in place that can connect users to mental health professionals based on their content, but it’s not far away!

Machine-learning algorithms are being applied to search for mental health issues through social media activity. Once applied to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tik Tok algorithms, these apps will be able to spot poor mental health before it spirals out of control, taking the responsibility away from the casual social media user. There’s no telling when this will go into effect, but it’s good to know a sanity-safety-net is in place for a generation growing up online.

Until then, we’re probably going to see a few more Gabbie Hannah stories.

public health // freepik x L. Aguayo

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