A woman was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after saying she believed that a famous actor was sending her coded messages via Twitter, according to a published research paper.
by Chris Matyszczyk @ChrisMatyszczyk August 7, 2014
It's almost a casual throwaway to describe those obsessed with social media as crazy.
Human behavior has seen radical shifts ever since noses were permanently pointed toward screens and lives began to be lived inside them.
One group of doctors, however, believes that social networks -- specifically Twitter -- can induce psychosis in those already predisposed to its effects.
The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease has just published an article entitled "Twitter Psychosis: A Rare Variation or a Distinct Syndrome?"
The article describes a 31-year-old female patient who was admitted to Charité-Universitätsmedizin hospital in Berlin. She had no previous history of mental disorder. Suddenly, though, she was enveloped by a Twitter obsession.
She believed that a famous actor was sending her coded messages through the site.
As the Daily Dot reports, her symptom became extreme: "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."
Having taken on a belief in this Twitter symbolism, she then purportedly began to see the same symbols in her everyday surroundings.
Having looked at her case, the doctors posited 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."
All language, spoken or written carries symbolic meanings. It may be that for Mrs C. the particular language of Twitter, with its abbreviations, codes and even in-jokes, represented a world that resonated strongly with some predisposition already present in her.
It's not clear whether these doctors managed to deduce the core of her resonance. However, Mrs. C recovered after treatment and managed to release her Twitter bonds entirely.
Not everyone has the predisposition for such an extreme reaction. What if, though, we chose to step back from all those online behaviors that have become a habit? Would we become different people? Better people? Saner people?
Would we suddenly feel more connected, because we'd have more time to interact with others in a real-world way, rather than through a screen? Or would we feel deprived to the point of insanity?
It's worth more than one experiment, surely.
Chris Matyszczyk is an award-winning creative director who advises major corporations on content creation and marketing. He brings an irreverent, sarcastic, and sometimes ironic voice to the tech world.