Don’t fall for social media fantasies, says new campaign


The government of Flanders has launched a new campaign to convince young people that social media and real life are not the same thing

‘OK to feel lousy’

Do all your friends live wildly exciting lives peppered with parties, clubs and beautiful clothes? Do they always look perfect? Are they always happy?

Then you only know them through social media and are coming away with a drastically skewed view. That’s what Flemish health and wellness minter Jo Vandeurzen wants to get across to young people in his new campaign Leef zonder filter (Live Without a Filter).

The minister is concerned that young people see social media posts as a real reflection of their peers’ lives and judge their own lives accordingly.

Leef zonder filter is aimed at people aged 16 to 24. According to Vandeurzen’s office, this age group is vulnerable when it comes to mental health problems. And social media can cause such problems, or make them much worse.

“On Facebook and Instagram, everything looks perfect,” says his office in a statement. “And then young people quickly get the feeling that it’s not OK to feel lousy sometimes. The goal of the campaign is to convince young people to live their lives without this filter.”

Do real things in real life

Last year, Vandeurzen freed up an additional €1 million for initiatives that lead to the early detection and treatment of mental health problems in young people. According to research, some 75% of mental health problems in adults begin before the age of 25.

“Our policy puts an emphasis on children, youth and young adults with psychological problems,” says Vandeurzen. “Prevention, self-care and help services are central to this and must work co-operatively. This campaign will show young people that not everything is as perfect as it appears on social media. And we offer a few tips to help them stay mentally fit.”

This campaign will show young people that not everything is as perfect as it appears on social media

- Health minister Jo Vandeurzen

Those tips include talking in person to friends and family about how you’re feeling about something and taking part in social activities outside the house, like sport. It also suggests spending time somewhere tranquil to get away from noise and stress, like a forest or a library. Try turning off your phone while you’re at it, or even leaving it at home for a change.

The campaign website includes information on taking care of both your body and your mind and provides inspiration for making a Top 10 list of favourite activities – none of which have to do with social media.