How Social Media Turned ‘Mental Health Prioritization’ Into A Trap



In January, Vogue released a video documenting a day in the life of a TikTok star named Dixie D’Amelio. In his antiseptic luxury apartment, D’Amelio, then 19, scrambles eggs, applies eye shadow and delivers a monologue sprinkled with false bravado. Dixie rose to fame behind her younger sister, Charli – but while Charli ruled TikTok, dancing for 126 million followers, Dixie took on the role of the whipped girl, earning her own 55 million followers in part by absorbing the public floggings regularly directed against his family. When the Vogue video dropped, commentators diagnosed her as talentless, boring, and “a dirty white girl who drained her sister’s fame.”

Then, last month, another document about Dixie’s life appeared. His family had acquired a Hulu reality series, “The D’Amelio Show,” and its first episode culminated in the fallout from the Vogue video. A hand-held camera walks the hallways of the D’Amelios’ home, a Modernist slab wedged in the Hollywood Hills. A flat noise suggests the chaos of a medical emergency. Dixie is found crumpled on a bed while her parents, Marc (over 10 million followers on TikTok) and Heidi (over nine million), comfort her. “I’m trying to do everything I can to improve myself, and it’s only getting worse,” she said through irregular sobs, lifting her crimson face up to the ceiling. “Everyone just separates everything. “” It will get better, Marc assures him. The screen turns black and a message appears: “If you or someone you know has mental health issues, you are not alone. “

A new celebrity mode features sanity as an attractive sign of vulnerability.

This disclaimer quickly becomes a refrain. “The next episode tells a true story of people who have struggled with mental health issues,” the next episode begins. Viewing the rise of family social media as a psychological crisis makes it seem both relatable and extremely serious, if not significant. If Dixie is tortured by the idea that her fame is undeserved, filming her suffering presents a solution: Now the intense focus on her is raising awareness for a cause. The show found not only a dramatic knot, but an excuse to exist. This may justify paying even more attention to this family by revealing how all the attention affects them.

Not so long ago, signs of mental distress in young female stars – Britney Spears ‘head shaving, Amanda Bynes’ online spiral – were treated by the tabloids in a sordid and exploitative manner. But a new celebrity fashion features sanity as an attractive sign of vulnerability. Demi Lovato has appeared in three documentaries on the subject. Selena Gomez’s line of cosmetics promotes mental health education in schools. When Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles left competitions, citing mental health issues, they were congratulated. Now Dixie can document her breakup on her own terms, shaping it not as humiliating but redemptive.

Yet this growing awareness can also flatten a constellation of medical and social phenomena into a bland and ubiquitous buzzword. “The D’Amelio Show” refers to “mental health issues” or simply “mental health”, a phrase Dixie deploys as if it meant its opposite. (She says her boyfriend is inexperienced in dealing with “people with mental health issues.”) Saying “mental health” is not let’s say “mental illness”, eliminating specific diagnoses and more stigmatized and less marketable symptoms. An incisive TikTok from a 16-year-old teenager underscores the point: “Let’s just clarify the difference between taking care of Mental HEALTH,” her text reads, in images of thin women mixing juices or holding a diary on a bed. lawn, “VS. treating a mental ILLNESS ”- waiting rooms, paperwork, medication. The self-care tale, with its dramatic air and resilience, has an ambitious quality. Prioritizing mental health becomes both a courageous accomplishment and a luxury. All of this encourages more investment in social media, not less.

On “The D’Amelio Show”, Dixie and Charli each seek professional help. In addition to the therapy sessions (offscreen), Charli enlists a dance trainer for sessions that she says are “like therapy without words,” and Dixie sees a doctor of osteopathic medicine to treat her anxiety. But the dance teacher has his own follow-up on TikTok, and the DO is also an ambassador for Lululemon. They blend in easily with the rest of the family circle – the vocal coach, the A&R. woman, the president of the D’Amelio family businesses.

No matter how many times they are burned, the D’Amelio sisters return, like moths, to TikTok.

“The D’Amelio Show” positions mental health issues as part of the human condition, but this family’s woes seem inextricably linked to social media. (Even the most resilient teenager could be brought to tears by public humiliation involving millions of Vogue consumers.) – is treated as a sad outcome, akin to letting enemies win. Charli expresses her gratitude for the “opportunities” given to her, like internet stars joining her for dinner or singing Bebe Rexha at her birthday party. Many of these awards seem designed for the show, but they unfold with chilling realism, as family life becomes a march of staged events.

Like Hansel and Gretel, the D’Amelio sisters were lured into a candy house only to discover it was a prison. But instead of burning the witch and escaping, they stay; they are, in fact, desperate that the witch continues to fatten them. In this, they are not unusual. Recently, a Facebook whistleblower revealed the company’s research into the disturbing psychological effects of Instagram, particularly on teenage girls. One conclusion was that many teens believed the platform would make them feel like better, not worse. This is part of what makes social media so insidious: If it makes you feel bad, the first solution is to post and consume content about how it’s okay to feel bad, by doing so. so that the experience seems meaningful and dramatic – much like a reality show.

No matter how many times they are burned, the D’Amelio sisters return, like moths, to TikTok. Even when Charli takes a week off to take care of her mental health, she still posts. At the end of the series, she gave up her dance lessons; she was struggling to find time, and dancing had ceased to make her happy. “I think social media really stole that from me,” she says. In the Vogue video, Dixie reveals that even though she was accepted to college, she decided not to attend, in part because of a TikTok comment that pictured her making fun of her during a fraternal evening. She explains it in a casual and self-effacing way, but it’s sickening: The world is at your fingertips, but she can’t imagine life outside of TikTok’s glory bell.

When Marc D’Amelio tells his daughter “It’ll get better,” he echoes the ten-year-old Dan Savage and Terry Miller’s “It Gets Better Project,” which assures bullied LGBT children that they had a rich adult life to come. Now that the focus on mental health has supplanted bullying, there is also a change of agency. It is no longer clear that “it” will get better; it is the young person who is supposed to improve. Later, Dixie is dragged around the internet again, this time for a video in which she and Hailey Bieber decorate sneakers. Her doctor sees that she is making progress: The comments don’t seem to bother her that much this time. “You are doing a wonderful job,” he says. He could refer to her work on herself. Or just his work on TikTok.

Source photographs: screenshots from YouTube and TikTok.



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