Sometimes the best ideas with the best of intentions crash and burn like a wreck at the Indy 500. That’s what happened with my decision to live tweet my breakup.
I wasn’t sitting in the bar where Jay broke up with me, logged into Twitter, furiously relaying all the things we said to each other. Because that would be insane. A saner idea, I thought, would be to live tweet my post-breakup emotional process. I have bipolar disorder, and I figured that showing people how someone with mental illness copes with setbacks would demystify what it’s like to have a romantic relationship with us. I reasoned that I could bring awareness to mental health by using the hashtag #datingwhilebipolar and encouraging people to engage with me. It sounded like a good idea, if only to myself and possibly some other people with chronic depression.
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There’s a fair amount of research on using Twitter and other social media platforms as a tool for creating mental health communities and sharing positive information. One study found that people formed communities around depression, and that these affiliations exhibited more self-sharing and less stigma than the general Twitter population. I’ve often experienced the results of these Twitter-based support networks during my recovery, and reaching out to others with my condition has made me feel less isolated and more hopeful. Plus, the preponderance of positive mental health campaigns and hashtags on Twitter made me confident that I could contribute to the conversation in a significant way by tweeting about my breakup.
Conventional wisdom, however, is that you should stay away from social media after a breakup.
Most common social sites have extensive directions on blocking and unfollowing, and Facebook even has a tutorial on how to manage your account after a relationship ends. Scholarly research points to the negative effects of social media on mood, which is already low during a post-breakup depression. In July, a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that greater social media use led to greater perceived social isolation, and that perception influences feelings of depression. An earlier study revealed that increases in Facebook use correlate with declines in mood — mostly because you expect it to be helpful, but it isn’t. So my decision was controversial, at least in scholarly circles, but I went ahead with it anyway.
I started talking about my failed relationship on Twitter a few days after it ended. I talked about how I felt, what it was like to miss someone, and how I used self-care and other healthy recovery techniques to cope with the loss.
— Tracey Lynn Lloyd (@ImTraceyLloyd) September 1, 2017