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In a society where anything considered too “negative” is shunned by others, it is immensely exhausting for people who are depressed to get by on a daily basis. The cheeriness of everyday social interactions can often feel frustrating, and even pointless at times. One might start to think: if only there was a way not only to allow people to be more vocal about these negative things, but to actually let them be praised for sharing the deepest and dankest recesses of their minds...

Look no further! Meet depression memes, the hot new trend in the memescape, featuring the subject of crippling anxiety, low-self esteem, suicidal thoughts and the kind of less-than-pleasant things some people deal with on a day-to-day basis. They come in different forms, whether it’s the starter pack with photo sets or just your average text over pic. The idea is pretty simple: a good depression meme must be relatable (tragic), funny and it needs to promote mental health awareness in a way that is fresh and “interesting.”

Depression memes have recently been on the rise, and it has spawned a whole community of “depressed meme lovers.” While browsing through depression meme pages, I noticed how surprisingly supportive people are in the comment sections. For example, rather than ridiculing others for being depressed, they show sympathy for those going through a hard time. It’s surprising because these are complete strangers over the internet. Yet somehow, they seem to be showing more support for the mentally ill than a lot of friends and family members do IRL. Sure, it’s the internet and people are able to relate to each other more easily. But maybe if people with mental illnesses were given more attention in real life, they wouldn’t need to spend hours on meme pages looking for some support. Just saying.

However, as much as depression memes can be a source of entertainment and social support, it can also be a hinderance to self-improvement, recovery from depression and unhealthy lifestyles. Having people to share in your social isolation and unhealthy lifestyle certainly is relieving, but it almost seems to legitimize these behaviours. Depression memes are only a way to delay the issues you are dealing with, rather than solve them. Although the path to self-improvement may not be as easy as the click of a button on a screen, the effort you put in will be so much more rewarding in the long term.

Often times, depression memes can actually act to encourage self destructive behaviours rather than extending a “helping hand” to pull people back onto the right track. Someone obsessed with depression memes might start to think, “This is where I belong. This is where everyone has it as bad as I do.” They lose the motivation to actually deal with the problems in their lives and contend to be just another average ‘depressed meme lover.’ We have to start realizing the potential danger of self-deprecating humor. Self esteem is not something people should be tossing away for the price of a few chuckles. What starts out as something silly and fun could end up becoming deeply unsettling.

Of course, encouraging self destructiveness definitely isn’t something memers intend to do, as most just want to gain some internet popularity with their artwork. Yet, as memes become an increasingly large part of popular culture, it is important to consider WHAT people should be memeing about rather than how many likes it can get. As relieving as it might be to joke about mental illness, maybe it really isn’t helping us address the issue head-on.

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