During an appearance on the Teenager Therapy podcast to mark World Mental Health Day (10 October), Prince Harry and Meghan Markle spoke openly about the impact consuming too much negativity on social media can have on our mental health.
Our relationship with social media can be complicated, to say the least. While its ability to help us connect with friends and family and meet likeminded people is undeniably positive, there have also been some downsides to the rise of sites such as Instagram and Twitter – especially when it comes to our mental health.
In particular, one big problem that’s come from our usage of social media has been the amount of harmful, offensive or hate-filled material we consume on a daily basis. Because there’s so much information online, it’s all too easy to find ourselves reading and watching negative or damaging content – a toxic habit which tends to have a negative impact on our mental health.
Speaking during their appearance on the popular podcast Teenager Therapy, Harry suggested that the way we read and watch online material should be treated in the same way we do our physical diet.
“We all have a choice – I think it’s very easy to be sucked in and consumed by negativity, but we all have the choice to be able to cut that out of our lives,” he said.
“Hate following has become a thing – you don’t need to do that. Just as much as we worry about, are concerned and take notice of what we put in our bellies as a diet, the same applies for our eyes and for our mind. What we’re consuming is affecting us.”
Harry continued: “For me, I made the choice not to read it, not to see it and remove myself from that, and to very much focus on the uplifting and the hopeful side.”
Hate following – or continuing to subscribe to the social media platforms of someone you dislike/disagree with – is an all-too common behaviour these days. And while it may not seem like that big of a deal to follow one or two people who annoy or upset you ‘just to see what they’re up to’, it only adds to the amount of negativity you consume online.
During the interview, which was recorded to mark World Mental Health Day yesterday (10 October), Meghan also spoke openly about her experiences of trolling online – and explained how the negativity we see online can lead to a sense of “disconnection”.
“[Social media is] a great way to connect, but it also kind of ends up being a place where there’s a lot of disconnection,” she explained. “I can speak personally too because I’m told that in 2019, I was the most trolled person in the entire world – male or female.
“Now eight months of that, I wasn’t even visible. I was on maternity leave or with a baby. But what was able to just be manufactured and churned out – it’s almost unsurvivable. That’s so big you can’t even think about what that feels like.”
She continued: “I don’t care if you’re 15 or 25 – if people are saying things about you that aren’t true what that does to your mental and emotional health is so damaging.”
As the Duke and Duchess of Sussex suggest, it’s all too easy to find yourself sucked in by negativity online – whether or not the negative content is aimed at you in particular. For example, according to exclusive research commissioned on behalf of Stylist at the beginning of 2020, one in three women continue to follow influencers on social media who make them feel bad about themselves.
With the pandemic putting extra pressure on our mental health, it’s important that we take care of our minds and regulate the amount of negative content we expose ourselves to on a daily basis. Something as simple as unfollowing someone who makes you feel rubbish could make a massive difference in the long run – now more than ever, a bit of self-kindness can go a long way.