The Brighter Side of Social Media: #ItsOkayToTalk

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Let’s talk about men’s mental health. Recently, social media has taken to discussing the extremely high statistics of mental illness for men and I think it’s about time. Social media has a lot of brighter sides but the way it brings stigmatised issues to the surface is arguably one of its most important. The hashtag ‘#ItsOkayToTalk’ has taken over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and is working to deconstruct rampant toxic masculinity.

Men throughout history have been forced into this idealised view of what being ‘manly’ is and what makes a ‘real man’. However, what we’ve failed to realise until recently is that this has a huge detrimental effect on the mental state of the men that it is forced upon. It’s unrealistic to assume and imply that all men must fit a certain few tick boxes of what society has randomly decided makes a ‘real man’. And the consequences of this lead to the repression of dangerous emotional baggage.

I think it’s important to clarify what toxic masculinity is. The social science term was coined  within recent years and has come to define the type of masculinity where everything is competitive without any real emotional intimacy. It stems from an internalised hatred of femininity which is taught to men by society; specifically a society which is built on misogyny and the oppression of women. However, this idea is deeply rooted in insecurity about oneself and one’s inability to fit this fake and unachievable societal image of what a ‘real man’ is supposed to be.

That’s where the hashtag comes in. Though social media has a lot of dark sides, one that definitely shows a brighter version is the effect that its global and widespread influence can have on people. So, the importance of a hashtag like this is undeniable. #ItsOkayToTalk aims to shed light on the idea that it’s okay to open up about not being okay. Men often shelter their real emotions and struggle to open up emotionally because they are intrinsically taught from birth that what qualifies someone as man is their dominance and strength, at all costs – even one’s own life.

In 2014, there were an estimated 6,120 deaths by suicide in the UK, and men were three times more likely to commit suicide than women. Three times more likely. Largely, because society teaches men that being themselves is dangerous unless you fit a certain ideal which for most is unrealistic, because if you are not masculine enough, or man enough, you will get chastised for it.

That’s why this hashtag is so important. Not only will it combat the misogyny and open up the discourse of emotions amongst men, but it will also save lives. Opening up is the first step to recovery and though it may seem impossible because of these societal pressures, I can assure you that it is a step in the right direction. A step towards being okay and being yourself, without any hindrance or expectation upon who you are meant to be.

Social media is about to change the version of masculinity that society has accustomed us to, and I couldn’t be prouder. As Paloma Faith sang: ‘There’s no need to man up. That phrase kinda sucks’. And she’s right, there’s only a need to open up.

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