More than half of people now use social media to discuss their mental wellbeing, but talking to someone in person is still the best way to open up, according to the results of RSCPP's social media survey, which we launched on Time To Talk Day.
The survey of 100 RSCPP readers found that 56% use social media to talk about their mental wellbeing, with men more likely (65%) than women (53%) to open up via their online social networks.
Despite this, participants overwhelmingly prefer to discuss their mental wellbeing face-to-face (57%). Social media and private communications, such as email or text message, were the next most popular modes for participants to discuss their emotions, ranking in joint second place (17%).
These preferences differ quite dramatically between men and women, with 69% of men preferring face-to-face discussions, 15% opting to discuss their mental wellbeing on social media, and just 1% favouring private communications. 52% of women, meanwhile, prefer face-to-face, followed by 22% favouring private communications, and just 18% opting to use social media to talk about their emotional health.
"You can get a much more intimate and honest experience face-to-face," one participant said, with others saying they preferred the immediacy of the response, and felt there was less risk of being misinterpreted when chatting in person.
However, of those who have used social media to talk about their mental wellbeing, 80% said they'd received support from a friend as a result of something they posted, and 86% said it made them feel more connected to people with similar experiences.
"I don't feel alone, and it prevents me from feeling like I'm just not coping as well as other people. I also find good coping strategies and, in trying to help others, I can think of strategies that also help myself," one participant explained.
The biggest worry holding people back from sharing details about their mental wellbeing on social media was a fear of family and friends judging them, followed by concerns that it would affect their work situation or their relationship with friends and family.
Sadly these fears may be justified, as 56% of those who have discussed their mental wellbeing on social media said they had experienced friends and family judging them, with 41% saying it had affected these relationships, and 22% feeling it had impacted in some way on their work.
Just 38% of participants feared they would face backlash or abuse as a result of talking about mental wellbeing online, and only 9% had experienced this in reality.
Facebook emerged as the social network of choice for people sharing posts about their mental wellbeing, with 50% of participants using the platform to discuss their mental wellbeing, and 52% believing it was the most helpful social network for this purpose. Many cited private support groups, and the ability to only share with close friends and family as part of Facebook's appeal, although there remained concerns about privacy for some people.
In second place was Twitter, with 39% of participants saying they use it to discuss their mental wellbeing, and 30% believing it is the most helpful. A number of participants said they had found a fantastic, supportive mental health community on Twitter, and appreciated being able to post anonymously. Behind Twitter, 20% of users said they use blogging websites to discuss mental wellbeing, although only 18% felt it was the most useful platform. Anonymity and the ability to go into more detail were key reasons why blogging appeals, as well as being able to learn from the experiences of others.
LinkedIn was deemed the least useful platform to discuss mental wellbeing, used by just 1% of participants, with most citing concerns about damage to their professional reputation as their reason for keeping LinkedIn strictly work-related.