Suggested reading: When Facebook actually broke my brain

by Stephanie Eisler Vance

I was speaking in tongues. I was lying on my side on a plastic-covered couch, my neck craned over its arm, my mother beside me consulting with a doctor, and I was speaking in tongues. Some spirit was moving through me, causing me to regurgitate all that I had seen in the years leading to this moment. This spirit was not the Lord or any other celestial being. I knew exactly what I was referring to with each word and could envision the source material as my lips pinballed through my memory. It was, to my surprise and dismay, months and months of quotes and quips I had read since the inception of the Facebook News Feed, now bubbling up from my subconscious in an inscrutable cacophony of youthspeak.

This wasn’t my first trip to a hospital, but the verbal brain dump was new. I had resisted care too long this time, and my ability to keep it together on the outside gave way to this. That I appeared to be speaking in tongues was, of course, alarming to those around me, and as far as I can remember, it sped up the hospital intake process. No one ever asked me about the contents of my ramblings, though. Maybe it was beside the point, but it was perhaps a harbinger of a growing problem: the tonnage of non sequiturs social media pumps into our minds on a daily basis and the psychic noise it can create.

Facebook introduced its News Feed feature in September 2006, five months after my bipolar I diagnosis and first hospitalization and two years before this explosion of seeming gibberish. This timing is notable because my brain was still getting accustomed to its new reality. This new reality meant daily doses of high-strength prescription medication, navigating my social landscape with newly delicate sensibilities and consuming hundreds of updates from my friends. While I do not believe that my social media usage caused my illness, the heightened noise created by the News Feed had an obvious impact on my 2008 episode. … (continue at The New York Times)

Published by Massimo

Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at and He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

2 thoughts on “Suggested reading: When Facebook actually broke my brain

  1. Wrote but did not post
    Rewriting now. Fascinating for a stoic philosopher post on mental disease. A friend whose husband sailed with us years ago and is a retired psychiatrist. She posted the need for care for those in need. She said she did not think four of her friends would post. I did. I noted how many friends have been lost, how often I petitioned politicians to fund mental health and how I mourn for veterans who return from battle and have no help
    As a son of Yankees we were taught to have a stiff upper lip..

    The message from Stephanie is potent. We know so little about bipolar disorder and what triggers disease. Social media, news or opinion tv shows and podcasts as well as instagram overwhelm all of us. Our partisan angry tribes play to our fears and outrage.
    As an orthopedic surgeon many of my patients with disabilities, pain and diminished ability to cope had disease that we were not trained to care for. Many did not realize they were depressed.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: