Firstly, I would like to start by thanking the many families who participated in Personal Stories Week this year. So many asked to participate that I had to push some stories to August 2015. Your stories of bravery, triumph, struggle, pain, denial, hope, loss of hope, and perpetual challenges have not only inspired us, but perhaps has made us more grateful for the beautiful aspects of life that so many tend to take for granted.
Melanie Jimenez made it clear in her article that hope is the anchor that she holds tightly to. Kathy Brandt and Sharon Page made it clear that knowledge is the best weapon to use in this battle called mental illness. Dr. Morfitt discussed the benefits of thinking outside the box when seeking mental health treatment. All of the stories this year were wonderfully insightful. So again…thank you for your presence.
A few months ago I discussed making Personal Stories Week a yearly endeavor with a former colleague and one thing she said stood out to me: “people enjoy hearing and sharing good stories.” While I didn’t agree with her nonchalant stance on true stories of struggle with mental illness, she is right. Stories have a way of not only changing our perspective about events in life, but also inspiring, developing, and even changing our behavior. In most cases, these “good” stories come through social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, MySpace, and other channels. We have become such a social-media driven society that most people don’t share their deepest hurts in person anymore. Most people turn to social media to inspire or educate others.
A recent study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior and led by assistant professor, Catalina Toma, demonstrated that most people today use social media to share their stories and when they do it influences their emotions in positive ways. Toma states that “it’s almost like the event is not even real until you tell somebody.”
The authors of the study, graduate students Mina Choi and Toma, encouraged a group of undergraduates (300) at the University of Wisconsin Madision to share their events through social media (for example, Twitter or Facebook) and then jot down in a diary or journal their corresponding emotions after the fact. Interestingly, Toma reports that sharing information via social media makes everything more real, which is why she states that sharing a negative experience via social media can have a negative impact on you as well. In other words, sharing your life via social media can intensify the experience, both good and bad.
Even more, researchers of the above study also found that social sharing via the media can enhance the emotional tone of the event, a phenomenon known as capitalization.
If any of the stories shared this past week triggered depression, anxiety, or any other negative emotions, I encourage you to reach out for support. Tell someone or seek therapy. It’s very easy to experience the pain or stress of someone else, even if you read about it. This is called vicarious trauma. Sometimes an event can traumatize or negatively affect the individual observing from the outside. On the other hand, if any of these stories added value to your own experience, feel free to write any of us and let us know!
If you missed Personal Stories Week, please go back and read the many informative and touching stories found here: blogs.psychcentral.com/caregivers.
If you are interested in participating in Personal Stories Week next year, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, I wish you well