Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Twitter in mental health

I wanted to learn a little bit about Twitter recently, so I started a Twitter account (@DrGarthK).

In past years I assumed that the Twitter format would be very limiting, and would tend to favour very superficial chatter.

But despite this issue, I have found Twitter to be an interesting way to connect a little bit with people in the world whose ideas and wisdom you admire.   There are leading theorists, researchers, poets, authors, therapists, and scientists who contribute to Twitter regularly.  Of course, there are political leaders as well (one of my favourite contributors is the Dalai Lama, @DalaiLama).  

The very brief format of tweets does constrain expression very much, but on the other hand there can be a sort of concise poetry to them, at their best.  Furthermore, it is possible for your tweets to introduce a piece of lengthier writing.

Positives about Twitter

Here are some of the positives with Twitter I have discovered so far:

1) Interesting to hear what some famous people or great scholars are saying or doing.  It's possible to actually participate in a conversation with them, and give feedback about their ideas.

2) It is easy to engage with Twitter over a very short period of time, such as during a break.

3) The 140-character limit makes you practice framing ideas in a brief, concise manner.

4) It is interesting to appreciate Twitter as an art form, which some people have done very creative things with.

Negatives about Twitter

Here are some of the negatives or problems I have seen:

1) Even some famous people or leaders in a scholarly community contribute posts which can be rambling smalltalk, ranting/complaining, or disparaging other people, which I think is less enjoyable and makes less of a positive impact.

2) I realize that Twitter is commonly used for self-promotion, but an overtly self-promoting agenda comes across like an unwelcome sales pitch.  I find it a bit tiresome to see a lot of  tweets trying to market a new book or seminar etc.  I think I'd be more interested in someone's book if it wasn't advertised so directly.

3) Twitter, like many other forms of social media or electronics, can have an "addictive" quality, which might make you spend more time on it than is healthy for you.  Also the brevity of the content may condition people to expect morsels of knowledge or conversation that only require a few moments of attention.  I worry that this would make people gradually more impatient with a deeper, lengthier conversation.

 Uses of Twitter for mental health:

There are many people who post psychoeducational material, affirmations, meditations, encouragements, testimonial accounts about recovery and healing, etc.  In many cases, a person with psychological symptoms may have only the time or attention to spend reading something very brief.  So it is good that there is a medium favouring such brevity.


So far, after using Twitter for a few weeks, I am not quite sure if it has been worthwhile.  There's been some interesting content and discussion about things, but I have had a tendency to check it a little too often, at the expense of reading more substantial things...  Maybe a little too much time spent absorbed on a device, instead of enjoying the present moment, going outside,  or enjoying the scenery.

But it's been a learning experience, and I may continue to use it a little bit, in moderation.