Twitter Users’ Mental Health Stereotypes of Schizophrenia and Schizoid Personality Disorder
by Emily Brooks
“Night Owls and Early Risers Have Different Brain Structures… I alternate, guess I’m schizoid…” –tweet accompanying link to article
According to Twitter users, there’s a schizophrenic parking sign in Venice, California. While merging together academic and journalistic styles, one writer laments, “My prose has become fully schizoid.” In global relations and politics, there’s “evidence of an international schizoid approach to Syria war”, while “America’s Asia policy” is definitely “schizophrenic”.
Unlike “depressed”, “bipolar”, and “OCD” descriptors, however, Twitter users are less likely to refer to themselves as “schizoid” or “schizophrenic.” Sure, I ran across musings like the tweet saying “I never realized I was schizophrenic until I looked into my drafts folder”, but much of the misuses of these terms related to technology, the internet, and social media. According to social media users, Intel is “Becoming Less Schizoid” but there’s still “the schizoid duality that is HTML5” and “The Schizophrenic State of Software in 2014” to contend with. There are “schizoid” playlists and movies, and of course, Twitter itself causes or suffers from schizophrenia: “Nothing like Twitter to make me feel completely schizophrenic jumping from joy to heartbreak and back within the hour”, writes one confused user, while another comments, “Twitter is entirely schizophrenic when the Golden Globes red carpet walk is scheduled during an NFL playoff game.”
Similarly to those who misuse “bipolar”, Twitter users tend to use “schizophrenic” and “schizoid” to mean “opposing” or “confusing”. NAMI explains schizophrenia as a mental health condition “interfering with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others”, involving “unusual, inappropriate and sometimes unpredictable and disorganized behavior” sometimes caused by delusions and hallucinations. According to NAMI, people stereotype and stigmatize those with schizophrenia due to their “unusual, inappropriate and sometimes unpredictable and disorganized behavior”.
It interests me that “schizophrenic” and “schizoid” are used to describe technology more than humans. Are people more afraid of schizophrenia than other mental health issues? Are we simply less knowledgeable about conditions on the schizophrenia spectrum, like schizoid personality disorder? Or do we use our fear to dehumanize people with these conditions and therefore find foreign concepts more applicable to non-humans, like websites, operating systems, and machines? Whatever the reason, it’s not okay.
This post is part four in a five part series. Visit us next Monday to continue the discussion and for Emily’s conclusions about mental health stereotype use. Also, please check out more content by Emily Brooks at her blog Changing Perspectives About Gender, Sexuality, and Disability Through Writing.