In Spider-Man: No Way Home, Peter Parker deals with a problem most of us will never need to worry about: His secret identity has been blown, and the world knows that he’s Spider-Man.
News crews surround his apartment building. Phones are repeatedly shoved into his face. “I am the most famous person in the entire world,” he laments to his girlfriend, MJ. “And I’m still broke.”
In the real world, Tom Holland—the guy who plays Spider-Man—is not broke. But he might know a little how Peter Parker must feel. And he decided to do something about it.
Holland, who hadn’t connected with his nearly 68 million Instagram followers in weeks, returned to Insta ever-so-briefly to say why: He was taking a break from social media for his mental health.
Holland said that social media can be “overwhelming,” and that reading things about himself online can cause him to “spiral.”
“Ultimately it’s very detrimental to my mental state, so I decided to take a step back and delete the app,” he tells us.
The main purpose of his post, fittingly, was to push a series of apps by Stem4, a charity designed to care for and boost teens’ mental health. Of course, when you’re talking about mental health, social media is an inescapable part of the conversation. So I’d imagine that Holland’s post might encourage teens to consider the role of social media in their own lives, as well.
As various sources have reported, teens who use social media a lot tend to be more anxious and depressed (though adults aren’t immune to these harms, either). And in a blockbuster series of reports last year, we learned that Facebook (as Instagram’s parent company was called at the time) knew that Instagram could be detrimental to their users’ mental health, especially if those users were teen girls.
Holland is hardly the only person to step away from Instagram and other social media apps. Plugged In’s Emily Clark detailed her own struggles to just delete the app. (Perhaps Holland was following her lead.)
But our relationship with social media is complex. The fact that Holland returned—even temporarily—to Instagram reminds us that social media isn’t all bad. Through Insta, Holland was able to share with millions of people about a charity he feels is worthwhile and helpful. (Focus on the Family, of course, has loads of its own resources to help teen mental health. You can check out a couple of articles here and here.)
Unfortunately, this tool for connection can so often become an instrument for harm. We see perfect lives lived online and wonder why our lives look so boring by comparison. We read angry comments and become angry in turn. We, like Holland, sometimes read things about ourselves that hurt us. That cause us to spiral.
In the movies, Spider-Man is blessed with super-human strength. He swings from buildings using his fancy webs. He battles a number of bad guys, from the Green Goblin and Vulture to mighty Thanos himself. He rarely walks away from a challenge.
But he’s not invincible. Neither is the guy who plays him. Neither are we. And when it comes to social media, sometimes the best thing we can do—the most heroic thing, really—is to walk away.
-Love it! Though I do not have any social media other than YouTube, I can agree, it can be quite tiresome…
-I’m praying it works for Tom Holland. I confess that when I was waiting to find out what happened in Avengers Endgame, I would sometimes go to his Instagram to see Marvel movie set photos, even though I didn’t have an Instagram account. He definitely has a talent for humor, so hopefully stepping back will recharge him.
Not having the internet at home, I didn’t realize how much social media manipulates you until I tried Reddit this past year. Somehow the points system messes with your self esteem. I like Reddit to find advice for learning foreign languages, but it seems to bring out the worst in people. I keep debating deleting my account.