On Social Media and Mental Health

Yesterday I talked about how mental illness is often implicated in faith crises. Our problems aren't really with God or church, we're just struggling with anxiety, depression, addiction, or a life crisis, and that's casting a pall over everything in life. In these instances, getting well is the priority.

The other thing that came to mind here is social media.

One of the problems with social media is that we can't gauge the mental health of our interlocutors. The working assumption is that everyone on social media is well. But we know that's not the case. I'm convinced that a lot of the trolling and nastiness we see on social media isn't because people are wicked. It's because people aren't well. They are depressed, anxious, angry, or socially alienated. Social media pulls a lot of this pathology out into the open. The darkness on social media is less about total depravity than it is about emotional brokenness.

I'm sure you've experienced this on social media. You're having a back and forth with someone and it's not going well, and you start to suspect, "I don't think this person is in a very good place." Face to face you can suss this out pretty quickly, observing the various signs of agitation, rage or dysphoria. But you can't do this all on social media. Not that you'd avoid conversation, but you'd adjust your approach given what you're dealing with.

It's hard to talk dispassionately about God, faith and church when you're not in a good place. And social media never lets you know who is or is not in a good place. It's all just words on screens. So it's a bit of a minefield.

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