Why you should be kind on the internet
Depression and suicide.
How many of us feel like those are the words that have been thrown around lately? When I was younger I thought people who killed themselves were so selfish and didn't think about their loved ones. My unenlightened thought stemmed from a place of "rationale" and not empathy. I'm older now and I understand that it takes a lot for someone to decide to take their lives and go along with that decision.
Depression is not something a person plans on falling into and think they can get out of it with the snap of their fingers. We see smiles, pictures, LOL's from people all over the internet every day and we assume they are happy based on the images they choose to show us. But the question is this, are they really happy? Can you look through your social media and categorise people into happy and unhappy based on their updates? Even if you can, is your categorization the most accurate representation of people's reality?
Let me tell you a little secret, maybe it's not a secret, but, the happiest looking people on social media are often times the struggling ones. I know of a woman who posts too much of her life on social media. People always commented "enjoyment", "soft life", "I wish I had your life", "life goals" and all sorts on her pictures and videos. After she attempted suicide, we found out that herself and her husband were drug addicts with billions in debt. Her portrayal of "the perfect life" was a cry for help! Nobody saw it, after all, people wanted her "life".
Why do we lose our humanity behind the screen? The things we say on the internet are not things we can say to a person in real life. A lady posts a picture on Instagram and people think its okay to leave distasteful comments such as “you are ugly”, “you are so fat”, "you look 4 months pregnant" or “why is one eye bigger than the other”? Are these comments something that can be said to her face in real life? I'm guessing, NO. Our humanity won't let us be that cruel, I hope. We don't go around saying mean things to people’s faces for the fear of catching a fist or getting beaten. But why have we gotten so comfortable behind the screen to say mean things to one another, losing every fibre that makes us human?
I think about the lead character in “13 reasons why”. If you haven’t seen the show, it's about a teenage girl that commits suicide and leaves tape recordings for people in her life detailing the reasons that led to her suicide. The show is very intense but it really opens the mind to the daily struggle of people. You may think a person’s struggle is nothing in comparison to yours but it doesn’t give you a right to invalidate their struggles. If someone shares a problem with you, don’t just say “get over it, that’s not a valid reason to be sad”. Never invalidate a person’s feelings or struggles. Please show empathy!
Some Nigerians are very fond of invalidating other people’s struggles. A person comes to you and says “I have a serious headache”, instead of empathising we go on to say “you just have a little headache, I have had a headache, toothache and a stomach upset since yesterday morning”. Because you think your problems are bigger in comparison doesn’t mean the other person’s problems are insignificant. Empathising with someone does not remove anything from you, it adds humanity to you. Next time someone comes to you with a problem, please empathise and make them feel better. I dare you to be kind!
I get it, life is very difficult! But can we agree to avoid transferring our personal frustrations to people (strangers) we don’t know on the internet or in real life? Your single mean word can be a determining factor in their contemplated decision to end their life. Be kind, please!
Sometimes we troll people on social media “unconsciously”. That comment you left saying “you are so skinny, eat some food” is trolling and body shaming. The only time that is acceptable is if it is an inside joke with someone you are very close to and not a stranger. Don’t leave comments you can’t say to a person's face. That is the rule of thumb for trolling.
If social media is the only way you keep in touch with your family members, you may want to set a weekly schedule of having a phone conversation or chat with them. Social media is not a good indication of their wellbeing. Check on your loved ones, remind them that you love them and need them to survive. Saying you love someone won’t kill you or end the world. In fact, it adds joy to you.
Let’s make it an action point to say only positive and lovely things on social media and in real life. Calling a person beautiful or handsome won’t kill you. Saying “you have a beautiful smile” won’t remove anything good from you. Alternatively, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything. Let positivity and love be what you are known for. Don't hate, redirect your energy to love and self-improvement.
If you are reading this and you feel hopeless or on the brink of suicide. Please reach out to someone. Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI) is a good organisation for helping people with mental illnesses. There is no shame in admitting that you need help or you are depressed. It's okay, you will get through it. You can reach MANI on 08091116264 or 08091196264. Check their website for mental illness resources, www.mentallyaware.org. You are not alone!
I dare you to be kind!
"1 in 4 Nigerians are suffering from mental illness" - Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative
With so much love,