The thing that scares me most about social media and bipolar disorder is the overwhelming amount of disinformation out there. Bipolar disorder and mental health in general have a stigma attached to them that is very difficult to shake loose. We are often perceived as out of control raging lunatics. Once in a while a post by someone in a manic state will show that perception to be somewhat true, and the public latches on. This only exacerbates the situation with the back and forth then elevating to an unreasonable level.
Then there are the armchair psychiatrists who think they know what they’re talking about merely based on anecdotal information. Sure there’s a place for that type of input, there’s a feeling of camaraderie when one can relate to someone else’s information. But when that information is used irresponsibly, when someone’s extreme measures are touted as a possibility to work for everyone, then possible harm can be caused unless a medical/mental health professional is consulted first.
On the other hand, as mentioned previously, the feeling of knowing one is not alone with their symptoms is very comforting. And often, some anecdotal information can be very helpful. Sharing medication experiences as well as what types of things help alleviate one’s symptoms can be very helpful when used responsibly.
There are many social networking support communities which are very positive environments. Information is disseminated in a responsible way, discussion groups are moderated, and well-being is boosted by knowing that you’re not the only one going through a particular symptom or situation.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve received a lot of support from social media. Being able to say things on Twitter and get virtual hugs can seem very minor but it can be very uplifting. Expressing ideas and feelings will get an almost immediate response which can be very helpful and satisfying. I’ve found links to quite a bit of good information on Facebook, and on a whole my mental health experience with social media has been quite positive. Every now and then, I just come across something that makes me stop and think how important being knowledgeable about your own mental illness can be so that you don’t get sucked into the negativity.