In the midst of (often) perfectly styled squares, Instagram launched its #HereForYou campaign this week, utilizing the incredible power of the hashtag to do good. It’s serving as a powerful reminder that social media can be used to promote soulful connections, build solidarity among those who feel like outcasts and dare I say it, save lives.
The video features members of the Instagram community discussing their struggles with mental health. May is Mental Health Awareness month, and Instagram has strategically used #hereforyou to open the eyes of their audience to just how many people suffer–and, how social media can be a tool to help soothe their suffering by cultivating community and nurturing positive interactions online.
As I dove deeper into the hashtag abyss, I saw story after story of how people who have used hashtag communities to dig themselves out of the darkness that is mental illness. In the #hereforyou campaign, Instagram highlights three community members who open up about their personal struggles with mental illness–Elyse Fox, Luke Ambler and Sacha Cuddy–all Instagram users who struggle with their own mental health and aim to be an advocate for others.
This campaign is the best example I’ve seen highlighting the communities of support that exist within the social media world. They serve to empower, and it’s a stark contrast to the dark side of social media, where we can see more bad than good. While the impact of social media on mental health is a convoluted at best, with heavy social media use linked to higher rates of depression, I’ll go out on a limb and say that social media is (albeit, slowly) finding its altruistic place in our world.
The #hereforyou campaign proves me right.
“I want to send a message of support to know that we’re there,” Ambler said.
More than simply sharing stories, Instagram is boldly celebrating those who open up about their struggles with mental illness and thus, providing a path for others to do the same. The campaign aims to make sure no Instagram user suffers in silence.
“From dedicated accounts tackling real issues, to hashtags of support and kind comments, Instagram has become an important community of support. We are inspired by these voices,” Instagram said in a release.
On an unassuming Thursday in August of 2007, former Google designer Chris Messina tweeted out the first hashtag, suggesting they be used for groups. I doubt he could have imagined how the symbol would evolve into the community-building tool it is today; one that has revolutionized the way people connect on the internet.
And it’s changing lives. #hereforyou