Masonic Boom

"Crazy" "Oversensitive" "Feminazi" "Bitch" bloggin' bout pop music, linguistics and mental health issues

Monday, December 16, 2013

Twitter, OCD and "Subtweeting"

It's true; I subtweet everything.

There are varying degrees of subtweeting, from "wow, this post office queue is really annoying and the guy at the front is a total douche" to "god my upstairs neighbour is so loud!" to "argh, this person on an internet messageboard is really fucking doing my wick in."

I've been called out for subtweeting many, many times, with endless clusterfucks of defences and accusations, but I am not going to stop. For me, it comes down to this: you have the option to block me. You have the option not to look, and not to engage. To my mind, it is fucking *weird* to watch and read the twitter of someone you don't even like, just to check that they are not talking about ~someone who might be you~.

But why do I do it and why I will not stop just to make you happy, is another question entirely.

I suffer, really badly, from OCD. I mean, interfered with the ability to perform my job, impacted my life in a debilitating way, spent a year washing my hands so frequently (like, hundreds of times a day frequently) that I had no skin left on the back of them, they were just raw and chapped and red. And that's just the C part; the O part is much, much worse.

There's another aspect to OCD which is sometimes more debilitating than the repetitive-action thing, and that's what I call the "Thoughtworms." Thoughtworms are ideas which enter your mind as if they are a thought, so you think them, but they are not a thought, they are repeating loop-things which enter your mind, and spiral round and round until they take over all space available for conscious thought. They can escalate until the original impulse is so distorted as to be unrecognisable, and becomes confused or even frightening.

I had the pleasure of talking to a trainee neuroscientist about what causes these "thoughtworms" - current medical theory is that the brain is trying to complete a task, and file that thought away as "complete". If the brain is unable to complete the task, and mark it complete, the brain cycles back to the beginning of the routine and tries to start the process again. And again. If it is unable to tick something as complete, it whirrs round and round.

An example, exaggerated to highlight the absurdity of the way these things work, would be: "This post office queue is really long and the guy at the front is really annoying" becomes "OMG post offices are always full of assholes and weirdoes and long lines are so intolerable, I don't want to go there ever again" becomes "OMG, even the thought of the post office produces stress and anxiety and holy fucking shit, my heartrate just quickened, is this a panic attack, oh god let this not be a panic attack..." etc.

What does any of this have to do with subtweeting?

These thoughts enter the brain with stimuli - my neighbour is being really loud; that guy on that messageboard is irritating me; post office queues are annoying. Twitter becomes the place where I can just stow that thought, write it down, externalise it, and my brain has now done something which allows it to mark that task as "complete" and move on. That simple action marks the box "done", and my brain stops whirring and moves on to the next thing.

In effect, that act of typing and posting "Wow my neighbour is really loud tonight" completes the loop and stops the thought from spiralling into "my neighbour is deliberately doing it to be annoying" into "there's a noise in my yard, shit my neighbour is going to murder me in my sleep". I often have a marked increase in tweets just before I go to bed: because lying in bed waiting for sleep is one of those times that I am tortured by this kind of OCD. (The only place that is worse for me is the shower. This is why I sometimes don't bathe for days at a time when I'm having a Bad Mental Health Time.)

Sometimes tweeting "argh a person on the internet said this annoying thing" is the difference between getting a normal night's sleep, coming back refreshed and ready to have a normal conversation about books or music or even UK politics - and an all-night frenzied clusterfuck of spiralling steadily into more and more extreme arguments. I don't enjoy the latter. If doing the former is what enables me to avoid the latter (and maybe even actually enjoy the experience of messageboards and possibly even post offices again) I am not going to give it up. Not for anyone. My tweets, even the subtweets, are not about you. They are about stopping a process in mine own head.

You have the choice not to read my twitter. You *really* have the choice to read my twitter and not interpret every single tweet (which might be about you, or might be about my upstairs neighbour or the dude in the post office or some random on another messageboard you don't even read) as being Specifically All About You.

It is also true that freedom of speech gives you the *right* to carp and complain and follow me from thread to thread sniping at my heels and making digs about "twitter" and mocking "safe spaces" because you know that is something which is almost guaranteed to get a reaction out of me. But if you do engage in these behaviours then, I am going to draw the conclusion that *this* is ALL. ABOUT. YOU, and is actually nothing to do with me at all.

(And with writing this blog post, I am now ticking the box as "complete" and now I am going to attempt to go to the Post Office. Wish me luck.)