After Donald Trump’s victory last night — which directly threatens the well-being of women, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities — some are finding a small amount of community and guidance on Twitter. Mental health tips and recommendations of affordable therapists are being shared alongside suicide hotline numbers, entreaties not to break any hard-won sobriety, and offers of assurance that it’s okay to unplug from the internet and cry.
However, the limitations of the platform — which we know creates almost impenetrable bubbles of influence — are a problem. It’s hard to get outside those bubbles to reach all the people who probably need to hear these recommendations.
POC with mental health issues please take some time away from media if you need to. Listen to some music, take a bath, try to relax.— hentai (@HibachiTashi) November 9, 2016
“Platforms that rely on shares (sites like Twitter and Tumblr) to spread people's words are always going to be limited,” writer L.D. Lapinski told The Verge. “Even using hashtags isn't necessarily helpful, as they are often cluttered and busy.”
Still, she says, Twitter is a convenient platform, and the character count forces her to write concentrated, impactful messages that people respond to and pass on. Some of the advice she shared has received thousands of retweets.
“The reaction I’ve had from people has been overwhelmingly positive and even thankful for shared experiences,” Lapinksi said, adding that even if you have to go offline for the day there’s something you can do in the real world: “Be kind. Be as kind to one another as you would hope someone would be to you. Kindness costs nothing, and we need to give more of it away.”
Today is going to be a shit mental health day for so many of us. Here's what you can do:— L.D. Lapinski (@ldlapinski) November 9, 2016
Take care of your physical needs. Wash. Eat. Drink. Walk. Take your meds.— L.D. Lapinski (@ldlapinski) November 9, 2016
If you feel unsafe, or that you might harm yourself or others, seek help. Practice safe behaviours until the urge passes.— L.D. Lapinski (@ldlapinski) November 9, 2016
Do not feel guilty for cutting off the internet. Your environment is often the easiest thing 2change. You are not bad for avoiding the news.— L.D. Lapinski (@ldlapinski) November 9, 2016
Game developer and writer Brianna Wu posted a similar thread this morning, emphasizing the option of turning off the news. Wu was the victim of one of the most hateful and virulent harassment campaigns of Gamergate, and later inspired Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) to introduce new cybercriminal law enforcement legislation.
1/ I'm chatting with a therapist friend of mine this morning. This is what you need to know to take care of your mental health.— Brianna Wu (@Spacekatgal) November 9, 2016
2/ Start small and give your mind small breaks through the day not to think about it. Don't spend all day on Twitter or reading the news.— Brianna Wu (@Spacekatgal) November 9, 2016
3/ If you stay with the trauma for long periods of time, it will leave a deeper mark. Cry. Exercise. Hug your loved ones. Seek support.— Brianna Wu (@Spacekatgal) November 9, 2016
4/ Don't isolate, reach out to friends and handle the pain and devastation together. Check on friends. Many people are not in good shape.— Brianna Wu (@Spacekatgal) November 9, 2016
Wu told The Verge that she offered this advice both at the urging of a friend who is a therapist, and because of her experience dealing with Gamergate. “I think of myself as an emotionally strong person,” she said, “but at 39, a lesson I’ve learned is dealing with trauma is not a matter of willpower. It’s all about your brain wiring. If you’re reading negative things constantly, it will build negative neural pathways. Soon, your brain will fall into negative thinking.”
Despite the fact that Wu has personally had a nightmarish experience on Twitter, she also commented that “Twitter is one of the most important creations in human history ... As a white person, reading what women of color face makes me a better ally. We need to double down on listening to each other. What I’ve done today is reached out to people and told them I [am] there for them and I care about them.”