A part of the problem
An exploration of YouTube videos about depression
Keywords:Youtube, Depression, Young women, Text analysis, Vlogging, Health communication, Social media
In recent years, ordinary individuals with diverse health conditions have increasingly turned to social media platforms to share their experiences with illness. This trend has raised concerns regarding the informational value of these expressions, as well as the motivations behind them and their impact on viewers. This article is a critical examination of the textual characteristics and potential appeal of YouTube videos about depression uploaded by young Norwegian women who have personally experienced the disease. The discussion is grounded in a multimodal analysis of six videos. Utilizing Norman Fairclough’s concept of media discourse, the article explores three dimensions of these video blogs (vlogs): the representation of depression, their interaction with viewers and the identities of the vloggers. The analysis reveals that the vloggers do not disseminate misinformation about the symptoms of depression. Their statements align with clinical discourse. However, they remain vague about the disease’s underlying causes and do not reflect upon how social structures might influence their mental life. The relationship between the vloggers and their audience is characterized by intimacy and mutual support. Regarding their identities, the vloggers present themselves as nurturing women who aim to combat stigma and assist viewers in overcoming their mental challenges. However, their personas are not strictly maternal; rather, they exude a more glamorous appearance with makeup and long eyelashes. As potential role models for their audience, they inadvertently contribute to the societal pressure of maintaining a flawless image, a pressure that has intensified in the era of social media. Notably, research consistently indicates that young women often grapple with negative body image, which frequently intersects with depression. In other words, the depression vlogs are potentially part of the problem they try to solve.
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