Fibers student Tayler Ayers advocates for mental health online
Written by Jordan Petteys, photos by Jordan Petteys and Elise Mullen
We sat down with senior fibers student Tayler Ayers to discuss how his online presence within the community affects his mental health.
Ayers described himself as “a highly emotional and sensitive guy,” saying he struggled to balance his emotions and creativity at SCAD under academic and professional pressures his first few years. “I just have to be very honest and real about how my mental health is: how it is when I’m dating someone, on the tennis team, how it plays into my classes and future and being 25 now. Health is always at the top of my list––before art, sports, eBay, my mental health is my number one. If you’re not good up there, you’re not gonna be good anywhere else,” Ayers said.
Ayers claimed that attending four different high schools and three different colleges contributed to his following on Instagram. However, he answered whether he felt known by everyone who follows him, “I can have 4000 followers, 300 likes and 50 comments and it feels good but I can’t even get one of my closest friends to go to dinner with me? That’s hard to navigate. I’m popping on the gram but I don’t feel like there’s any real people around me and that messes with me. People just like what I do. I became an entertainer. Something I find really attractive in people is when people see me for me, Tayler as Tayler,” Ayers said. “It’s an app. It ain’t real bro.”
“People have an internal, deathly fear of looking stupid. I don’t care, 99 percent of the stuff I do is stupid and the other one percent everyone sees on the gram. It’s just having the confidence to say ‘I know I’m not alone in this.’ Whether it’s to one person or 1000 people, I’ve gotta just get out of my head and talk about it. Taking that conscious leap and saying, ‘Hey I went through this––’ people notice that real stuff, it sticks,” Ayers said when asked more specifically how he uses social media to relate to others.
When asked how he copes with his mental health, Ayers said, “Humor is how I cope with everything, my adoptions, breakups, everything. I like making people laugh more than anything, besides skiing, I love skiing. It has an influence on my work where I’ll take serious topics and synthesize them and present them with a humorous tone. I said this funny thing to my friend, “I thought about killing myself but I love food too much,” and he was all “yo that’s dark,” but it’s also kind of funny because I love eating and I don’t wanna miss another meal.”
Yoga, nutrition, sleep and prayer all positively contribute to Ayer’s mental health. “At 6 am I’m ready to attack the day, and that’s just my mindset. That can make people really uncomfortable sometimes, but I’m not gonna take time to say I’m sorry for being myself,” Ayers said. On the other hand, Ayers admitted to ‘ghosting’ his followers on social media when he’s going through a hard time. “My friends will tell me the same reason people like me is probably the same reason people dislike me. I don’t know how to be passive. If I have an issue I want to talk about it. Some people don’t like confrontation, I’m just really honest. It just means I love you.”
Ayers shared that his dad called out his gift for communication early on his life, but that he didn’t realize the influence his words would have on others until later on. “If I’m in a bad place, I write about it. And it scares some people, it scares my mom. But on the flip side, I’ve gotten some of the best DMs ever. This one kid DM’d me and said, ‘your writings last year were the only thing that kept me living,’ and that’s heavy. I was just writing stuff because I was going through it,” Ayers said. “We’re all different but it just takes someone being willing to risk embarrassment and failure to show that you’re not the only one who’s alone in this.”
To inspire more conversation surrounding mental health, Ayers advocated for more vulnerability within relationships. “In this culture now, everyone’s walking on eggshells but no one wants to be blunt. For me, I think this is the time to speak up about these issues. Our generation is the first one to take away the stigmas from mental health and figure out how to talk about it,” Ayers said.