April 19, 2016

Cornell Student Encourages Reality on Social Media

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Despite the prevalence of mental health issues among college students, Anusha Jain ’17 said she never saw any trace of it on social media. In response, she launched a social media campaign last week called #iamnotperfect to encourage people to look beyond the facade people display online.

#iamnotperfect encourages people to post pictures that accurately portray themselves, along with stories of personal struggle. Through the campaign, Jain also encourages people to tag three of their “seemingly-perfect friends” to take up the challenge of sharing their stories.

Jain said she believes we need to look at social media to solve the problem of mental health.

“When you go on social media, people paint a fairytale-like image of their lives, from pretty pictures to fabulous vacations,” Jain said. “Many people, myself included, can’t help but feel alienated when seeing people’s constantly perfect lives.”

Jain said the constant feed of people’s celebratory life moments or, as she called it, “highlight reels,” is unrealistic. Outside of social media, the perfect image often can’t be further from the truth.

“#iamnotperfect is supposed to act as the first step of addressing mental health, which is to realize that we are not alone in our problems and it’s okay to struggle,” Jain said. “It’s okay to fall down and it’s okay to fail.”

So far, the campaign has gained significant momentum in India, according to the Times of India. Earlier this week, Jain said she estimated the total number of participants in the campaign to be in the hundreds and continuously growing.

“It’s difficult to get an exact number on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, since people just post through their friends, but from what I can see, people are really connecting with the idea,” Jain said. “For some reason, it’s really taken off in India, which really shows how worldwide this issue is.”

In addition to promoting the #iamnotperfect campaign, Jain also founded PEAP, an organization that strives to erase the stigma of mental health through the sharing of stories.

“PEAP, which stands for peace in pain, has a mission of wiping mental illness off of the face of the Earth,” Jain said. “The system on our website allows people to feed in the difficult situation that people are in before giving you a list of stories of how other people have gotten through similar problems.”

Jain said she hopes PEAP, along with the #iamnotperfect campaign, will help raise the mental health awareness on campus and around the world.

“It’s important to break the cycle of ‘perfection’ on social media,” Jain said. “I want #iamnotperfect to be a way for people to be open to sharing their failures and struggles with difficulty, because our failures, just like our successes, are an essential part of who we are.”