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)