@JonathanPoole and I met at the Duke of York last night to talk about social media, collaboration, investment banking, and things we’d like to do together. Jonathan reflected on the sensation of joining twitter, and similar systems (like Yammer) and compared it to Hypomania.
I found that very powerful. First, I could definitely relate to that analogy. Consider some of the symptoms:
- pressured speech; rapid talking
- inflated self-esteem or grandiosity;
- decreased need for sleep;
- flight of ideas or the subjective experience that thoughts are racing;
- easy distractibility and attention-deficit
Sounds familiar? Well, here’s the good news:
People with hypomania are generally perceived as being energetic, euphoric, visionary, overflowing with new ideas, and sometimes over-confident and very charismatic. [...] A person in the state of hypomania might be immune to fear and doubt and have little social inhibition. People experiencing hypomania are the typical “life of the party”. They may talk to strangers easily, offer solutions to problems, and find pleasure in small activities.
Not bad. And yes, it does resonate with a lot of the behaviour I’ve seen on Twitter. But there’s a dark side as well.
- increase in psychomotor agitation; and
- steep involvement in pleasurable activities that may have a high potential for negative psycho-social or physical consequences (e.g., the person engages in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments).
- (sometimes) emotional flattening or blunted affect.
Is this a mere analogy or is there a correlation between involvement in certain social media and a psychological condition? Could this explain why some people jump in with glee and others simply can’t be bothered? Or maybe twitter induces a sort of momentary pseudo-hypomenia? If so, will prolonged exposure lead to personality change? Either way, I see this as an important warning:
People in hypomanic episodes do not have delusions or hallucinations. They do not lose touch with reality in the sense that they know who they are and what is real. What can be a problem, however, is that they tend to overestimate their capabilities and fail to see the obvious risks involved in their ventures. For example, if they are in business, they may suddenly decide to expand in a way that is not really practical or set up schemes for which they are ill prepared.
Recently I’ve found that for me, the right way to use twitter is to uninstall any client, and instead open the twitter site for a limited time when I choose to. That allows me to modulate both the time drain and the emotional / cognitive impact. It might be that such a tactic allows me to experience the joy of “twitter-induced pseudo-hypomania” without suffering the consecuences. I simply bail out before I do something stupid. Granted, I’m probably less of a party star this way. Perhaps there’s a pattern here.