Disclaimer: I'm a psychology student, not an expert and I do not mean to offend anyone with this commentary; it's an observation.
The colder months are coming up and the weather is already going below 50 degrees. What does that mean? Well, to some it can make it sadder to exist. I'm not just talking about depression, there's something about snow and cold weather that makes it sad for everyone. I believe it's not a stretch to say that everyone gets a bit depressed during late Fall and Winter. That's why I thought about this.
So, on a daily basis, when I open up Twitter, I'm exposed to a lot of memes. Most memes aren't too bad, they are offensive but usually don't bother people too much. The usual "Fortnite" and "The Office" memes, as well as the more obscure ones, that come and go on a weekly basis, out there too. It's all fun and games until someone starts to make fun or use mental disorders as a means to a joke. Personally, I do not have depression, and my knowledge about it comes from people I know and what I've learned from my psychology major (which I'm almost done with!)
But what I think is a problem is memes and jokes online using depression as a means.
What I mean is that there will be times where I go online and read a meme or just something funny. Or maybe a 4-panel comic. And whatever they wrote or drew or made, might really be funny. It usually sounds like dark humor. But then I look at the comments and someone will ask "how did you make this?" or "this is so funny, how are you so good?" And the creator will cite depression. Hello? Do you really have depression or are you making your sadness feel more important? Or rather are you making depression sound like it's a reason to be self-deprecating?
Another way it is represented as I've seen is that people will write off a bad situation or an inadequacy of themselves and blame it on depression. The problem with that is that people are multi-faceted, and depression isn't always the cause for someone to lack emotion or response. Just like how introversion is not the same for all introverts, feeling depressed isn't the same either.
Depression, as my professors described it to me, is a mental disorder where you feel waves of sadness and helplessness. They come and they go unless you have a certain specific sort of depression where it always persists in different intensities. For most with this disorder, they can live normally (or most like how they want to be) and function as they want to. When depression comes around for them, then they get this sort of mood swing and lack of motivation to do things. This isn't something one can really control, that's why it's a disorder. My professor said it best, "Do you feel depressed or do not feel?" She also warned us to not compare our personal feelings to the definitions of mental disorders because it would make us misappropriate our emotions to that of disorders.
It was made clear to us that feeling sad and feeling depressed is a mood. Moods change and fade away quickly. So when people without depression feel this mood and associate it with depression, that gets on my nerves because people actually having depression tend to stay away from letting others know how they are feeling and try to deal with it on their own (which isn't always a good thing, but that's reality.) Seeing more and more people using depression as a joke can make it feel worse for people who are suffering. You might think that with more people online mentioning depression and others being okay with it is a good thing for people with depression, but there's the fact that the threshold for what is sadness vs what is depression is getting lower due to it.
So, people who have depression start to associate smaller and smaller things to their disorder instead of trying to feel better about themselves and letting themselves know that their mood is due to a disorder and not themselves. In addition, to real people suffering from depression going online and telling people how they feel, there are others who also claim depression but it's not the same. There are people who say they can't go to work or blame other things for their lack of motivation (like telling their boss that their brand new car can't start up) vs someone posting an image of something from Spongebob and saying it cures their depression. What is real, what is fake?
There's no way I can really tell anyone to stop, as there is also no way to verify if the poster actually has depression or not. But in whole, I think it's just better for people to stop and think. Is what they are feeling depression or are they just depressed? Maybe there needs to be more awareness for this disorder, I sure think so, but online memes isn't the way to do it. Just search "depression" on Tumblr or Twitter, see what's there. Some posts feel legit, and actually mentioning of a chronic struggle or an uncontrollable sadness and lack of motivation, leading to a joke of sorts. Others are just making seemingly sad and annoying aspects to them or a situation feel like its the fault of depression when it's not.
How do we solve this? Educate. Make people aware of the differences. Tell them what to notice and what makes depression different from just feeling sad. Then maybe people won't just haphazardly throw around that term.