Concordia Public Fellow Fanny Gravel-Patry Studies Social Media Use and Mental Illness

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Fanny Gravel-Patry believes women’s Instagram habits may reveal significant gaps in mental health services.

“Instagram’s practices are more than just a superficial routine. They can highlight neglect in mental health care and study them is needed in order to get a more granular picture of the state of mental health in the community. our company, ”says the Public Scholar and Communications Studies doctoral candidate.

“Social media can function as a tool of care when people use it to access or share mental health-related information and resources that they would not otherwise have access to.”

Gravel-Patry is an active member of Feminist press studio, and his research is supported by the Quebec Research Fund – Society and Culture (FRQSC) and Concordia.

“We have developed a language to talk about anxiety”

What inspired you to study mental illness and social media?

Fanny Gravel-Patry: It was primarily my personal experience of living with anxiety and depression, and my own use of Instagram as part of my recovery process. I started following the mental illness content and pages just as I started my PhD in 2017.

It was also around this time that this type of content began to gain popularity, especially within feminist and anti-racist networks like #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo. I think people were looking for ways to reduce the constant flow of traumatic content on social media by bringing calming images to the fore and focusing only on their healing.

How can social networks work as a care tool? What are the communities and practices of care?

FGP: Communities and care practices are the emotional attachments, connections and networks that take shape on Instagram and become part of users’ daily routines. Most of my participants don’t feel the need to talk to other users to have this sense of community. This is also where the idea of ​​practice comes in.

There is a very gestural and habitual dimension to these communities, which is the daily act of scrolling through your feed, sharing posts in your stories or with a friend, sometimes taking a screenshot. It might sound trite to most people, but it can be transformational to others.

Some people argue that social media is responsible for a general increase in anxiety levels in our society. Are we suffering from more anxiety than before?

FGP: I don’t think people suffer from more anxiety now than previous generations, but I think we definitely talk about it more. Part of this is because we have developed a language to talk about it in part via Instagram.

Many people have written about how anxiety is the disease of our generation. And while I think it’s good that people are talking more openly about their mental health issues, I also think there is a tendency to equate stress with anxiety, when it comes down to it. does two different things.

Stress is something you can identify, while anxiety is a generalized feeling that can arise for no reason and can really be debilitating.

Bigger question: In your opinion, what are some of the root causes of anxiety and mental illness in our society today?

FGP: This is a very big question, and I don’t know if I am equipped to answer it correctly. In my opinion, some of the root causes of anxiety and mental illness in our society today have to do with late capitalism and the constant pressure to be productive at all costs.

During my interviews, I was able to observe that my participants were inspired by a lot of stress, whether it was on their physical appearance, in their professional life or in their personal relationships.

Can you tell us a bit about your work with Feminist Media Studio? Who are they and what are they doing?

FGP: The Feminist Media Studio was founded with the aim of creating a common space where students, academics and creators can exchange and work collaboratively around issues related to feminism such as gender and sexuality. The studio hosts conferences and workshops on media and writing.

I participated in several of their workshops, which really helped me develop my research project. It gave me the opportunity to reflect with professors and students that I would not have met otherwise or with whom I had the opportunity to collaborate.


Learn more about
Concordia Communication Studies Department and the Feminist press studio.


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