There is no doubt that social media can be bad for the mental health for its users across a range of platforms, from Twitter to Instagram.

Take a quick online and you will find a fair few articles about how Instagram can affect your self-esteem; yet, flip the coin over and it is also telling that ‘Realstagram’ was a notable hashtag trend in 2017.

I will be the first to admit I have often found it extremely hard to not compare myself to others on social media platforms.

It has however, also been a platform for me to raise my voice on issues, whether this is autism, the employment challenges which are related to autism and the mental health of those on the autistic spectrum.

By highlighting these issues, I hope to not only raise my own voice but the voices of others who face similar challenges and I like to think I have achieved some progress in achieving this, no matter how small or big the impact of my voice has been so far.

When I have done this, this is perhaps when I have felt most proud; whether this has been told by a father that they would be proud if their son grew up to be like me, or getting a response from Richard Branson on my journey so far.

Social media can create fantastic and supportive online communities, if people don’t abuse the platform. As any social media user is likely aware however,  there is unfortunately, a large element of abusive content out there directed individuals from all backgrounds. I like to think that by raising my voice and helping to do so for others, I am doing my bit to empower others.

At their most positive, social media platforms, especially Twitter, are fantastic conversational tools. For myself, social media also provides a space to start conversations about all these issues. Through these online conversations I have connected with a wide range of people; from Channel 4 presenter Cathy Newman to numerous other journalists and bloggers.

When I have felt lonely these connections have also helped me and perhaps on occasions, even helped to save my life. Social media also gives me the opportunity to provide support to others who are in similar situations on the autistic spectrum, send a virtual hug when times are tough and most of all, empower others through sharing my writing.

One of my proudest pieces of written work was a blog I wrote during my time volunteering at Mind Cymru about my experiences of social isolation at University. When shared on Twitter it caught the attention of a student who was facing similar challenges during her studies and I was more than happy to chat with her about her own experience. Without social media, we perhaps wouldn’t have got in touch at all.

As 2018 gets underway, lets all try to make sure our voices and social media communities become the number one trend.

I know I will do my best to continue raising my proudly autistic voice.

Guest post written by Maxwell Dean

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