Last week I read an article titled Split Image on ESPNW (there is also a 10 min. video called Life, Instagrammed that is worth a watch). I cannot do the story/life justice and I encourage you to experience either or both. I originally read the story online and later watched the video. Both struck a familiar chord that many people have written about before on how Instagram (and most social media in general) portray a filtered view, both literally and metaphorically, but this one has a sad, and tragic ending.
We all know that social media often shares a partial truth. For every Instagram photo posted there are likely 3-4 others that don’t make it up for some reason or another. A photo shared of a family smiling might not show that same family 10 minutes before arguing over any number of things, trivial or major. When I post photos of my shoes next to the First Lady, you probably don’t know that often times we’re having a conversation about putting on her shoes in the first place, but what is shared is a picture-perfect moment of daddy and his little girl’s tiny shoes.
The article on ESPNW takes a look at the life of Madison Holleran, a 19-year old college student who was struggling with her mental health. The article initially grabbed my attention because she was a track athlete, but it stuck with me through most of the weekend because it brings up the point that her life, shared through social media, showed no indication of her struggle.
The article and video continue to tell a story of an edited life that was shared through social media with others around her not realizing what was happening OFF-line. Her family was aware of some of the struggles going on in Madison’s life — her unhappiness, her struggles with track, school — and were helping her in any way that they could. But they would never have guessed that their 19-year old daughter would take her own life. No one did.
I am not a mental health expert. I am not a doctor. I’m just a guy with a blog that read this story and it has been on my mind ever since. I understand how social media can do many things: it can show a FRACTION of the truth and at the same time show the strength and love that people can share. A look at the hashtag #lifeunfiltered on Twitter, or #lifeunfiltered on Instagram, can show you how powerful social media can be and how communities can come together.
As a father of a little girl who holds my heart with all her cuteness and at the same time can frustrate me more than I ever thought was possible, I understand sharing a filtered life on social media.
In the words of Madison Holleran’s family:
“IT’S OK TO NOT BE OK. IT’S OK TO SHOW PEOPLE YOU’RE NOT OK.”
If you are struggling, please talk to someone. Anyone. A friend, a family member, a teacher, a doctor. Someone. There are people in this world that can relate to your feelings and emotions. There are people in this world that care — even if they are a stranger. There are people who will listen, be a shoulder for you to lean on, be whatever it is that YOU need them to be.
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National Suicide Prevention Hotline
Are you in crisis? Please take the first step in getting help by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The call is free, and you will be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area.
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The Madison Holleran Foundation
The primary mission of the Madison Holleran Foundation is to prevent suicides and to assist those in a crisis situation with phone numbers and resources that will assist them during their time in crisis. We will also focus our efforts on preparing high school seniors and college freshmen, since this can be a very difficult transition period, as it was for Madison and many college freshmen.
It’s OK to not be OK.