Social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, can be intimidating. Users are overloaded with information, happy pictures, sad stories (and sometimes sad pictures and happy stories), and an incomplete picture of the life behind the profile. This can lead to feelings of anxiety or depression. I remember when I was in college, the Snapchat stories that people would share made me feel like I should be going out instead of doing schoolwork, and made me feel like an outcast for not being included or having anything as “fun” to share. TikToks that portray teens and young adults in mansions and high fashion can lead youth to feel like they don’t have the same things, which can trigger a negative emotional reaction. Oftentimes, though, what the youth does have is kindness and a passion to create change.
This passion to create change isn’t always easily-translatable onto social media platforms. Sharing about volunteering, helping others, or kindness in general isn’t the “cool” thing to do, and youth might sometimes feel like they should post only what their peers are posting. Despite all of these complicated emotions, a youth task force for a Tucson non-profit, Help and Hope for YOUth (the “YOU” pullout in “youth” was a youth’s idea!), takes to Instagram to showcase positive emotions, stories, and thoughts.
Help and Hope for YOUth is dedicated to reducing stigma and improving mental health, and the Youth Task Force, created in January, 2020, is aligned with this mission. The Youth Task Force currently consists of eight youth, ages 11-21, who are committed to creating a kinder and braver world through speaking up about bullying, mental illness, and self-care. One of the first things they did was create an Instagram page with the intent of sharing positive, uplifting posts to their peers. This page is slowly growing, as is the youth group.
As the Youth Task Force leader, I feel honored to contribute kindness alongside the wonderful youth I have the pleasure of serving. Future goals for the Youth Task Force include participating in NAMIWalks, a walk to raise awareness of mental illness, and planning a conference. It has been awesome to see the positive responses of the youth and their peers, created by using Instagram as a platform for kindness.
If you have a social media page or platform, I ask you to share in kindness and positivity as well. It could mean a lot to the audience you reach, however small.