Will you log in for a session of Instagram therapy?
A chance conversation with an acquaintance facing troubled times led to a discussion on the relevance of the presence of a cosy, soft blanket in the room of a therapist. Fortunately, psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists are gradually overcoming their reputation of being dark, dirty secrets; hence our conversation owed openly. We spoke of how a glass of cold water helped him as he opened his heart out to the expert. “The ambience helps,” he concluded. As a passing remark, he also mentioned the hourly fees for the services, which is when the brows were raised. Within seconds, everyone began to speak about expenses on mental versus physical illnesses, availability of self-help books, confiding in
a friend and following a therapist on Instagram.
The latter came as a shock to me. I created my profile on the then only photo-sharing social networking service a year ago. Pretty pictures can be good for the tired eyes, I thought so. But I was wrong. Stories, videos and IGTV began to play havoc in my scrolling routine. From loo breaks to luxury escapades, I feared I knew too much (too soon) about the human race. I began to withdraw and become selective — a choosy or snobbish follower, many commented. With 518 followers and 148 following — it’s safe to announce that I am far o from being a social influencer or a trend-follower. Someone suggested, you are an author; why not post only words on the forum? Huh? No pictures. So, my grid became word-heavy — observations, anecdotes and quotes. A comment by a follower suggested I was now part of a clan, #writersofinstagram (17.3 million posts and counting). So far, so good for a published author’s ego. I was content until someone DM’ed (direct messaged): “If you work on your game, you could be an Insta-therapist.”
I got curious. Profile of people, who understand that #mentalhealth (12.5 million posts and counting) is an issue appeared. Who are these individuals — licensed experts or wordsmiths with sensitive hearts? Both. They help you to connect with yourself. Their path is opposite that of influencers. The Insta-therapists understand that your Instagram feed isn’t good for your self-esteem. The fresh posy of violets on a colleague’s desk, the sun-tanned vibes from a neighbour’s holiday, the froth on a coffee mug on your friend’s cuppa, the mauve shade lipstick on the celeb’s lips, and even the big smile on your cousin’s child’s face. This grid of pictures complete with hashtags can bring down your morale in seconds. Your child woke up cranky, with flu and your coffee went flat and cold even before you could reach it. As for the sun, you just walked a mile from the Metro station to reach your workplace wearing half-moon sweat marks on the armpits. They know that life ain’t grid perfect, either. They acknowledge weight gain, death of a loved one and a tiff at work.
They’re using the platform to encourage you to overcome anxiety, share your fears, practice self-love, forgive and forget, and more. When Allyson Dinneen (@notesfromyourtherapist, 1,65,000 followers) was recently quoted in an article titled Instagram Therapist Are the New Instagram Poets by The New York Times, she wrote: “Can’t believe this happened!” Mental health professionals are speaking to the “therapy generation” online, at no cost.
Scroll carefully — it’s the best mental advice I can give. Also, as mental health care remains an exorbitant affair and connectivity becomes cheaper (and free), one can only hope that the online therapists can bring to light the hidden, positive power of Instagram to ensure the hashtag #instatherapy (18,300 posts) keeps trending. Me? I am not jumping on the bandwagon. I could invest in an Ikea couch and pour a glass of water offline. But, with no qualifications, I am choosing to stick to my current profile, online and otherwise.
This piece was first published in Khaleej Times.