Symposium Story: Beautiful Suffering Turned into Dark Dismay: Glorification of Mental Illness on Social Media by Abigail Cox

Kaylie Barrett

As people increasingly share information about their lives on social media, Piedmont College junior Abby Cox is concerned about the impact it can have on those with mental illnesses.

“When individuals with a mental illness see that others are glorifying illnesses that they suffer from it begins the propagation of beautiful suffering,” said Cox.

At the 2020 Piedmont Symposium, Cox, a mass communications major, presented her poster “Beautiful Suffering Turned into Dark Dismay: Glorification of Mental Illness on Social Media.”  Cox noted there is a lot of negativity on social media, and this may have negative impacts on some.

“Beautiful suffering is the online portrayal of suffering on social media that generates misbeliefs and misconceptions about mental illness,” Cox said. 

For example, when a person says they’re “depressed” because a concert is canceled or they spilled something on their favorite shirt, it minimizes the pain of those actually suffering from clinical depression. 

“When a person is actually suffering from a severe mental illness sees that, they don’t think that their issues are big as they actually are,” she said, adding that it can make those suffering from depression feel “little and smaller.”

While researching, Cox found there are many contributing factors linked to glorified depression on social media. 

“There is a growing interest in the potential influence of psychological well-being on social media,” she said. 

Today, mental illness is portrayed differently due to the impact social media has on today’s society and generations. 

“Mental illnesses are now represented as “interesting personality quirks.”

Like mentioned earlier, people feel belittled by something as serious as Depression being taken so lightly as a “personality quirk.” 

Fellow student, Breanna Gipson viewed the presentation and felt it impacted her greatly. “I see a lot of meme’s on Facebook and especially Instagram that would be considered glorifying depression or mental illness in general,” she said. “Those posts are usually shared and reposted by millions of people so it’s spread everywhere.”

Mass Communications Professor Joe Dennis said he can personally relate to some of the points Cox made in her presentation. “It took me a long time to come to accept my clinical depression, in part because I misunderstood the meaning of depression,” he said. “Because everyone one gets ‘depressed,’ right? I thought I should be able to snap out of it. And when I couldn’t, I sunk even further.”

Cox ended her presentation with reminding the audience to be more aware of what they post and the true meaning of the words they write. 

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