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Power of Peer Support on Social Media

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During the last hundred years, the connection between people has been broken, the communal collectivity has declined over the past century. We are more and more lonely, depressed and alone with our problems. Ironically this is happening even though that we sharing more about ourselves on social media. But do we truly open up our minds to others in modern social networks? I say that we do not.

Why? Shame is the keyword. We are too scared to share our deepest thoughts to others because we are afraid what others will think. If I say that I am depressed, I start thinking that will I be labelled as a crazy person?  If the social pressure in family is really high, can I say that I don’t want to go to that school? Can I be a girl, even though I was born in a boy’s body? Shame is so strong that we are afraid to be labelled as someone that people are avoiding.

Ideally, your social media profiles act as a window for the world to discover the person you really are. This becomes more apparent, particularly, if you are an avid social media user. Through being active on social media, you will probably see the positives that these platform can bring to you. However, as with everything in life, there are downsides to using social media. At least, there are if you do not do it properly.

As one of the co-founders of the online community for life challenges called Heimo, I have come across with one user who wrote: ‘I don’t really know how these issues are dealt with in other countries, but given all the things I’ve seen written here on Heimo, I can say it’s not very different in my country (Brazil). The whole “stigma” or “taboo” thing when it comes to sharing our condition with family members or close friends is still a huge problem. It’s a great thing we can find people who understand what we go through here on Heimo, and more than that, people who won’t judge us.’

This makes sense, as elegantly put by Brené Brown: ‘If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.’

One of the key things that is lacking on so many social networks is understanding and empathy. Peer support can be very powerful, but how to get positive peer support in an open environment, like on different social media channels? How to find those people who really can understand you and give meaningful support? Because peer support can have also trigger negative affection, when the support is something that encourages doing something harmful. One more keyword: empathy. We need safe spaces where people can share their thoughts without judgement and shame. With empathy we can kick the same away.

Now, in the era of technology, we have all the means to change things. People need each other’s help and also the desire to help others. I believe that there is power in the community to solve problems. It is about belonging to the tribe, helping and meeting people who understand. Being accepted and safe. People can support others with own skills and experiences. And most important feeling that you can get is that you are not alone. There are others that experience the same. You are not alone!

Jarno Alastalo is the Big Man and Co-founder of Heimo,  the social media for life challenges where people help each other. 

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