The decision by Simone Biles to withdraw from the U.S. Olympic team competition to prioritize her mental health was met with a lot of criticism – however, it also resulted in an outpouring of empathy and praise. Not surprisingly, the more sympathetic side of the issue tended to come from young social media users. People turned to all forms of social media, especially Twitter and Instagram, to commend her for her brave decision – one that was arguably braver than going through with the competition.
Although this mindset seems to come naturally to GenZ at this point, the reaction to this event demonstrates a major cultural shift. The age of preaching “tough it out”, and viewing someone who takes a step back for their mental health as weak has passed. Our generation has made it a priority to value their mental wellbeing. Social media has been vastly important in promoting a sympathetic view towards one’s mental state. People are more willing than ever to vocalize their mental health struggles and share their experiences.
This cultural shift was made apparent by the way GenZ defended athletes such as Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka when they pulled back from Olympic competition. Social media was flooded with posts that commended them for their bravery. The vast majority of the time, criticism towards these athletes came from older generations. Social media has proven to be a powerful resource for the younger generations in promoting kindness and acceptance regarding mental health.
However, there is also something to be said about the amount of pressure that the existence of social media places on these athletes to perform. Start winning competitions, and your social media following increases, and suddenly you have a large population of people scrutinizing your every move. This type of pressure is unique to this modern era. While social media has been crucial to the destigmatization of mental health, it is important to note how the introduction of social media to pop culture has detrimental effects as well. “Pushing through the pressure” is a lot more difficult today, when a person receives millions of unsolicited opinions after each performance.
Despite the added pressure that social media brings, it has proven to be a highly significant resource in mental health awareness. GenZ has made strides in destigmatizing mental health and acknowledging the importance of prioritizing one’s mental well being. The response to Simone Biles’ decision exemplifies this cultural shift. After generations of this mindset being unacceptable, it’s refreshing to be a part of a generation that can unapologetically say “No, I need this for myself”.
Published by Clare Culligan
Clare (she/her/hers) is a rising sophomore at Lafayette College, majoring in neuroscience on the pre-med track. Clare is a member of the Lafayette women’s lacrosse team. She is from Madison, NJ, and in her free time she loves to travel, surf, eat ice cream and play with her dog Rocky!
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