Your Latest Internet Terror Is 'Twitter Psychosis'


Many of us have long suspected social media isn’t doing great things to our emotional equilibrium, and a newly published piece of research isn’t exactly reassuring: Here is your introduction to “Twitter psychosis”!

The Daily Dot points to a case study in the upcoming issue of The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, “Twitter Psychosis: A Rare Variation or a Distinct Syndrome?” (I love a title phrased to cause max chatter at the next faculty cocktail party!) Researchers examine the example of “Mrs. C,” who was admitted to Berlin psych ward after suffering a breakdown. Thing is, she had no previous history of psychosis.

But she had become increasingly obsessed with Twitter, to the point of “neglecting her social relationships and, sometimes, even meals and regular sleeping hours.” It got worse:

‟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 paper explained. ‟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 systematized paranoid delusion.”

Once she got help, she stopped caring about Twitter. On the basis of this and a little experiment with a fake account, the abstract suggests that, “Twitter may have a high potential to induce psychosis in predisposed users,” thanks to the interactive structure. (They explain in more detail here.) Via the Daily Dot:

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.


Honestly, it sounds like they’re reading rather a lot into the details of one person’s illness. If Twitter were triggering psychosis right and left, presumably there would be more than one case study illustrating the phenomenon. And even then, they’re speculating specifically about people with a predisposition to problems, not Average Joe Internet User. But it does make you wonder whether it’s a great idea to spend so much time in the SOCIAL MEDIA VORTEX.

Photo via AP Images.

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