YouTuber Jessie Paege is best known for funny viral videos on millennial behaviour, but earlier this week she took to Twitter with a more serious mission: to clarify misuse of the term ‘social anxiety’.
Described by the NHS as a “long-lasting and overwhelming fear of social situations”, the condition – also known as ‘social phobia’ – can have crippling effects, yet memes, although hilarious and used by many as a coping mechanism of sorts, can sometimes trivialise it.
In a now-viral tweet, Paege sought to clear up misconceptions, explaining that social anxiety is about more than just cancelling plans and retreating to Netflix. Instead, she writes, it’s about longing to feel comfortable in social situations, about feeling stifled and trapped.
Paege is one of several YouTubers using their platforms to talk openly about mental health issues, which, research shows, can have devastating effects on young people. Statistics estimate that one in four people will experience some kind of mental health problem each year, with mixed depression and anxiety being cited as the most common.
Although medical advice should always be sought, it’s fair to argue that YouTubers – most of whom do a good job at building intimate connections with their millions of subscribers – are well-equipped to break through the medical jargon lingering around mental health. Not only can they communicate accessible messages, they can also show young people that they genuinely aren’t alone.
The internet may occasionally get a bad reputation, but at least influencers like Paege are showing that it isn’t all bad.