Mean Tweets and PTSD: Facts, Fakers, and the Future
This article was first published May 18, 2014… but it never seems to get old.
Americans love labels. We look to distinguish ourselves by the physical labels in our clothing, on the cars we drive, on the bottle of beer we drink. It’s interesting in a society consumed with “not labling” others, we are quick to label ourselves—and to make sure everyone else knows what our labels are. “I’m conservative…” “I’m African-American…” “I’m a Packers’ Fan…” and the list goes on and on.
Labels are important, because they tell us who we are, they tell others who we are, and they tell us who others are. In short, labels are closely tied to our individual identity. But in the hashtag-and-selfie-driven world we live in today, labels do more than just establish our identity: self-labeling generates attention and sympathy. Labels can also excuse our bad behavior, or even make us money. And I’ve come to understand that there are no “bad” labels, as long as the label makes the individual in question look like a victim.
Case in point: self-described atheist and feminist Melody Hensley made worldwide headlines recently after she claimed the PTSD she was diagnosed with was “on par” with that of war veterans. No drama there; everyone knows that there are many ways someone can legitimately get PTSD, and veterans are usually loathe to try to “one-up” someone else’s PTSD and the way it affects him or her. But what really got people fired up was how Hensley claimed she got PTSD: from reading mean things people said about her on the Internet.
Think about that for a moment: she’s basically saying “The Internet gave me post-traumatic stress disorder on par with that experienced by war veterans who experienced the absolute worst humanity has to offer in Iraq and Afghanistan because someone posted something that hurt my feelings.” Interesting. We’ll revisit that sentiment later. But first, if having mean things said about you is all it takes to develop PTSD, then consider this a trigger warning because a whole lot of people are about to get their feelings hurt… and it’s not going to just be Melody Hensley.