Social media has become a major part of our lives, getting to levels that affect the world. While a lot of people have taken to social media like fish to water, some have said it is a crazy space that drives them crazy. Now, there is some backing to that statement thanks to a case of psychotic symptoms that was studied and published with a possible cause being…Twitter. We have all watched as news has started to travel at the speed of a Twitter refresh, both being good news and bad news. Maybe a new addition to the immediate family has been shared across the entire family, no matter how far away at a moments notice via Twitter. Maybe there’s a selfie that needs to be tweeted that tells more of a story as to what’s going on with Russian soldiers in Ukraine or maybe, your aunt is being told what to do by a celebrities twitter bot.
The August issue of The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease had an article that brought the question of social media possibly having the ability to “aggravate or even induce psychotic symptoms” basically, can Twitter drive you nuts? The article brought to light a woman, 31 years of age, who is only known as “Mrs. C”. The hospital where Mrs. C was admitted into was Charite-Universitatsmedizin, which is a medical school and university. According to the article, Mrs. C had never shown any signs of mental illness, psychotic episodes, or personality disorders-at least until she joined Twitter according to her family and friends. They noted that she was using Twitter more than any average person, “Sometimes, she would spend several hours a day reading and writing messages, neglecting her social relationships and, sometimes, even meals and regular sleeping hours,” the article noted. While this may seem odd to the average person, any blog writer will tell you, “sounds like a normal day.”
Still, the study calls this the beginning of the mental illness saying that Twitter helped move things along. According to Mrs. C, celebrities were sending her coded messages within the 140 character tweet. Then after time, she noticed the messages popping up in other people on social networks. “During the next couple of weeks, Mrs. C increasingly felt that the messages of other users were ‘meant in a symbolic way’ and that she had to react to these ‘tasks’ in a certain manner.” The article continued to say, “After approximately two months, she started to discover the same symbols in her real-world environment. She then began to feel that there ‘must be some organization behind these tasks’ and started to suspect a sect, pointing to the development of systemized paranoid delusion.” Mrs. C has since recovered thanks to her admittance into the hospital, and her quitting the internet cold turkey. Still, does this mean that you should stop using Twitter ASAP before you go coo coo for interwebs? More than likely, you’ll be alright.
According to the authors of the study, the symptoms had to have been there before, but only uncovered after using Twitter excessively. They note that this could be due to the layout of the system entirely, “The authors believe that the amount of symbolic language (caused by the limitation of 140 characters per Twitter message), the automated spam responses with seemingly related content, and the general interactive features of Twitter might combine several aspects that could induce or further aggravate psychosis.” Essentially, their findings are that Twitter and other social media sites, were not the cause, but the trigger of an underlying psychotic issue. While on the other hand, at the University of Missouri, researchers say that social media is a great outlet for people with mental illness. The study done in Missouri showed that people who suffered from certain mental illness, can benefit from the use of social networks-especially for meeting people like them who can relate better. “The Internet (and Tumblr specifically) has given me a great low-pressure platform to talk about my own mental illness and read about other people’s,” Elise Nagy, said. Nagy runs a blog that focuses on mental health issues. “As cliched as it is, there’s something really valuable in finding out that you’re not the only one going through something (far from it).” Maybe what we can learn from this, is that too much internet=psychotic episodes, but just the right amount of internet=mental peace.