How “Motivation Porn” Can Be Damaging To Mental Health

The cheerfully-optimistic formula of self-motivation manuals and “pop psychology” may have an obvious charm, but in many cases its inadvertent harm outweighs potential benefits

Andrea Carlo

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Victor Freitas / Unsplash

Social media is oversaturated with “motivation porn” — “The Five Easy Steps To Success”, “Do This And You’ll Find Happiness”, “Take Back Control Of Your Life”, “Ten CEOs Reveal Their Top Tips in Climbing The Career Ladder”, “How To Succeed In Your Dreams”, you know the mantra. An endless flurry of bullet-point articles, inspirational quotes, how-to manuals and testimonial photos, widely shared and posted across the Internet. A lot of these are fundamentally based on different kinds of “pop psychology”, part of the self-help and “human potential” movements which sprung up in the post-war US and ended up gaining mainstream appeal in the Western world. Without the need for a psychology degree, by now anyone with some common sense and a flair for the written word could produce a best-selling book heralding the end to people’s problems through their very own miraculous formula. Move forward to 2019, and you don’t even need to bother crafting a 250-page opus — share your own little anecdote on your blog and that will suffice.

“Motivation porn” clearly differs in shape and scope — some pieces are about finding your inner inspiration, others more crudely about providing you with the magic beans to fame and fortune. Nevertheless, there are a set of common characteristics which seem imbued in almost any how-to manual or inspiration article you find online: 1) focus on and visualise your specific goals 2) think positively, and get rid of negative thoughts 3) stop wasting your time in distractions 4) wake up early, eat healthily and exercise 5) work, work, work. Ultimately, underneath “motivation porn” lies the basic assumption that emotional feelings of happiness, self-worth or success are clearly obtainable, with self-help articles providing the “recipe” to a delicious dish.

But the reality is that “motivation porn”, however potentially benevolent in its intentions, can often end up doing far more damage than good. To begin with, its goal-based emphasis puts a set of heavy demands on the individual…

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Andrea Carlo

23-y/o Britalian, Oxford grad, published poet & singer/songwriter. Feminist, progressive & unafraid to share my views | Bylines: Indy, TIME, HuffPo, The Times