Depression in America & Twitter Account Deactivation

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I was first diagnosed with depression in 2015. At the time I was undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy to treat a chronic anxiety disorder (fear of catastrophe).

My family has a long history of depression, some members were treated, others were not but the symptoms were recognizable. It’s part of my genetic makeup that my body struggles to chemically balance itself.

It requires medication to achieve that balance as part of a wider treatment plan.

I was @audiodesigndan and then @danielkdewar

I joined Twitter on June 09, 2012. It was a powerful tool for getting access to the people I admired most as well as people I considered peers.

My profile photo was a black & white screen grab of Walter Hotenhoffer, a character in The Simpson’s episode, “The Scorpion’s Tale”, voiced by Werner Herzog.

walter hotenhoffer - daniel dewar profile pic

The episode features the following exchange:

Assistant: Mr. Hotenhoffer, there’s a mob outside.
Hotenhoffer: (pulls out gun from desk and places against his temple) An angry mob?
Assistant: No, a cheerful mob.
Hotenhoffer: (sighs and removes gun from temple) I’d like to have just one day when I don’t put a gun to my head.

This post probably best explains the appeal to me. Before Hotenhoffer I used a black & white screen grab of Ray Patterson (voiced by Steve Martin), the incumbent Sanitation Commissioner Homer runs against.

News

Twitter became my main source of news. I haven’t owned a television for nearly a decade, so I don’t have a reporting feed such as TV news available.

If ever I overheard or saw something breaking on a TV in a public space, I’d immediately go to Twitter and search for it. If I saw a street blocked off by emergency services around New York City, I would search Twitter to see if anyone was posting about it.

It has the potential to be a valuable news outlet, disinformation bots aside—but that is Twitter’s own fault for not managing the problem.

Disassociation & Mental Health

Over time, I started to mute most of the accounts I followed. I’ve thought for a long time that it was pointless to be on Twitter if I muted over 70% of the accounts on there. I then started blocking and muting accounts I didn’t follow.

I felt I had a feed of thoughtful people, who generally aligned with my world view. At some point it still became too much. Living in America before this current administration was anxiety-inducing enough. Now, it’s unbearable.

And I say this from a position of privilege that is not enjoyed by the people directly being disenfranchised and targeted by the US body politic. They have the privilege of being in a position to vote, if that is the one thing that constitutes being privileged by being an American.

As far back as 2011, the University of Vermont was conducting research that suggesting that Twitter had links to depression-enablement. As Twitter and social media has become more pervasive, the negative impact of societal health has only grown more recorded (see here and here).

Enabling

Twitter was enabling my most negative behavior, the speed of its information delivery resulting in a shorter attention span and an obsession to constantly look the feed, waiting for the next news of catastrophe.

Twitter is enabling far worse behavior:

Twitter Apologizes for Mishandling Reported Threat From Mail-Bomb Suspect

Two weeks before Cesar Sayoc allegedly mailed pipe bombs to political figures across the country, political commentator Rochelle Ritchie says she complained to Twitter about threats he made against her, including menacing messages and disturbing images such as alligators and human body parts after one of her appearances on Fox News.

Late Friday, the company acknowledged it had made a mistake and said it would investigate what happened, tweeting: “The tweet clearly violated our rules and should have been removed. We are deeply sorry for the error.”

And that is a high-profile example.

Most recently: Twitter apologizes for ‘Kill all Jews’ trending topic

Calls to ban Nazis and provide better censoring of racist & misogynist accounts have been willfully ignored by Twitter. Jack Dorsey’s leadership throughout has been one of criminal negligence.

Following

I enjoyed reading the thoughts of the following accounts, and appreciate their contribution to my use of the platform.

Ida Bae Wells
Matt Zoller Seitz
Miriam Bale
Richard Brody
Patrick Monahan
KT Nelson
Ibram X. Kendi
Sarah Jeong
Jamelle Bouie
Suchitra Vijayan
Eric Weisen
Bree Newsome
Jesse Hawken
Clint Smith
Florida Man

Post-Twitter

I still need to occasionally engage Twitter for a business account. The app is no longer on my phone, which already reduces the need to check the feed. My personal account is now deleted. I am spending more of my thoughts and time elsewhere.

Every thing I contributed to Twitter does not matter, nor does my decision to leave. It’s an insignificant and easy death.