The links between mental health and social media have been pretty prominent in the headlines over the past year and with Blue Monday on the horizon, a lot of prominent voices are speaking up on the impact it has had on their lives.

Zoe Sugg, better known as Zoella, shared her New Year’s resolution of being more honest on Instagram, as the pressure to appear “glossy” and put together can feel overwhelming. This sentiment also extends to her followers who, Sugg revealed, often message her about self-esteem issues related to the unattainable beauty standards shared on the platform.

There has been a real shift in bringing mental health issues into the spotlight, particularly within younger age groups who have practically grown up online. Gen Z is the most switched on generation when it comes to mental wellbeing, so it isn’t a surprise that many have chosen to turn their backs entirely on social media. The trend for switching off even extends to the platforms, with Instagram launching a Your Activity dashboard to allow users to set daily limits on how much time they spend on the app.

Oversharing on social media doesn’t have to be negative though. One of my favourite examples of a brand using social media for good is Abandon Ship Apparel. Owner Rich Davies has been very honest with his mental health struggles and the realities of being a small business owner on social and often shares his experiences. Customers responded so well to his honesty that they are even getting tattoos of his designs that feature mantras such as “not everything sucks”. Rich’s approach to social has transformed his t-shirt brand into a movement.

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Brands need to take responsibility

Brands also have a responsibility to ensure they are not abusing the power of social media and influencers to reach impressionable audiences. Last year the ASA took notice and published new guidelines with CAP, but a lot more needs to be done.

With the popularity of shows like Love Island, there has been a steady increase in influencers and ‘celebrities’ flogging potentially dangerous diet and health products on their own Instagram pages. As specialists in youth marketing, influencer and social media, Found will always assess the ethical implications of any activity. Unfortunately, not all of the industry hold the same standards.

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What influencers are saying

With increasing reports of influencers feeling the pressure of keeping up appearances online, our Influencer and Network Exec, Alex GT, spoke to some of our network to get their take on all things mental health and social.

Alex spoke to some of the influencers that Found have worked with over the last year or so to gather their thoughts on this issue. It was warming and incredibly insightful to see how open they all were to sharing their opinions on what can sometimes be (even though it shouldn’t) a bit of a taboo topic.

Here’s what they had to say:

Only Geo – “‘The problem with social media is that they only show the good stuff and I even find it hard myself to not compare your progression to everyone else. For females it’s worse because they are always seeing perfectly face tuned pictures of people which make them feel inadequate. You’ve got to know how to separate real life and social media because people only show the good stuff when in reality life is full of good and bad stuff.”

Chunkz – “Wanting to be an influencer comes with many pros, but the cons aren’t really spoken about. One thing that can be hugely affected is your mental health due to the fact you’re in the public eye daily through social media (Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter etc) and that comes with people judging every move you make whether it be positive or negative. You have to be thick skinned in my opinion, because if you’re someone who can’t take negative comments from strangers, being an influencer isn’t the avenue for you. People find a reason to hate for no reason most of the time, hit you about things you’re insecure with which affects your mood and when people repeatedly get onto your insecurities, it takes a toll on your mental health.”

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Chunkz boasts over 500k subscribers on YouTube

Josh Denzel – “Having been in the social media and influencer world, especially after Love Island, I have to say, it’s very intense. You end up getting a lot of gratification from posting a picture, or making a piece of content, and all you can think of is ‘will it bang’. You’re checking the number of likes after five minutes and if it’s not going the way you want it to it can end up stressing you out, especially if it’s for a brand. It can definitely affect your mood, you start thinking will this hurt my career or upset your fans or subscribers. It’s a very intense environment. You have to take a step back and see it for what it is, social media. A lot of people will live a double life and do the craziest things for ‘clout’, if you look at the recent KSI v Deji beef, a family has been torn apart because of some tweets. Basically, you can never let social media affect REAL life.

Moving forward

The key takeaway from all of this is that the implications of the Social and Influencer spectrum are both positive and negative. It is important that if people are feeling the pressure too much, that they are able to reach out and get the support and help that they need. Above all, it’s up to brands and agencies to lead the way in making sure they are held responsible for the ethical implications of the work they carry out and are seen to be supporting those within their social and influencer network.