Life&Style’s Jessica Capper discusses the Duchess of Sussex’s recent comments about the effect of social media use on mental health
With social media dominating our current culture, just how hard is it to quit apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, even when they are impacting our mental health? Meghan Markle, it seems, found the cleanse easier than most would. While on tour in New Zealand with husband Prince Harry, the Duchess of Sussex reportedly discussed how she was ‘relieved’ to quit social media, and the adverse impact she believes it can have on young people.
Meghan left social media in January last year, four months before her marriage to Prince Harry, as it is not customary for members of the royal family to have active, personal social media accounts. In December 2017, the Duchess had 1.9 million people following her on Instagram and boasted 350,000 followers on Twitter, and many of them were outraged that Markle was seemingly being forced to delete her accounts – damning the Royal family for being ‘out of touch’ with what they saw to be the ‘perks’ of modern society.
However, while on their current tour of New Zealand, Meghan spent time speaking to mental health advocates at the ‘Maranui Café’ in Wellington and relayed that she was happy to make the change, discussing the damage social media can cause to self-esteem. She stated that an individual’s self-worth can become ‘skewed’ when it is based on the likes and comments you receive from your peers. Not to mention – you never know if the photo you’re looking at has been photoshopped. Meghan quipped, “You don’t know whether she’s born with it or maybe it’s a filter”.
Prince Harry added to his wife’s comments, saying that ‘fingers are often pointed at the parents but that’s not always fair… they too need to be educated about these things’, making it clear that while there is a generational gap between the use of social media, almost everyone needs educating about its gains and its detriments.
Recently, it has been the big businesses and the beauty campaigns that have been the recipient of this education. There is an increasing pressure for them to showcase diversity – to show real women and men of all sizes, shapes, and colours in adverts and in our magazines, but it would be impossible to force these ideals onto everyone’s personal social media accounts. Social media is therefore often blamed for the lack of self-confidence and self-esteem thriving in young people today – young people only see the carefully chosen snapshots of people’s lives when online (and even those best moments are filtered to look better than real life), and this can impact their happiness and mental health if they do not feel they live up to the expectations of their peers.
On the other hand, while some may argue that social media skews an individual’s sense of self-worth, others might argue that it boosts their confidence, giving them the opportunity to showcase their happiest moments, and log them to look back on.
Whichever side of this argument you stand on, it is unavoidable that the Duchess of Sussex holds an incredibly influential position within both American and British society and throughout the world as she continues to tour, and will hopefully be able to use her position to advocate for young people and for mental health issues. Since officially becoming a member of the Royal Family, she has begun to join her husband, his brother Prince William and sister-in-law Kate Middleton, in working with the ‘Heads Together’ campaign (advocating for multiple charities that support those with mental health conditions). Moreover, we can hope that the fact she spoke and held discussions with mental health advocates on the other side of the world showcases her passion for this form of advocacy.
While Meghan no longer has her own social media accounts to spread her influence, she is, by example, still able to make a difference and raise awareness as to the dangers of all factors influencing mental health. She will simply be doing so without a Facebook account.