Online Disinhibition – a plus for Mental Health?


Whilst there has been, quite rightly, a focus Cyber Bullying and Trolls, there is a counterbalance evident where the anonymity offered by the web encourages people to shed inhibitions and talk about their problems to comparative strangers.

It’s worth considering why that is for a moment.

Essentially one can characterise it thus:-

You can’t see me; you don’t know me; it’s all in one’s head; and hit and run.

These are self explanatory –

·         You can’t see me so I feel safe and I can open up with fear of reprisal or humiliation.

·         And similarly you don’t know me other than my Bio which says very little. So you can’t judge me.

·         It’s all in one’s head – meaning we often associate characteristics with contacts that match our desire and needs, and give them values that may not really be accurate

·         Hit and run, means individuals can achieve a sort of emotional catharsis tossing in an aggressive or offensive tweet or message, and then ‘running away’ without staying around to see the consequences.


And of course, the detachment is heightened by the feeling ‘it’s not real’ and just a bit on fantasy where someone could act out a quite different persona to their real one.

So as with all things, the web can be a force for good and bad.

Speaking as someone who is blogging and tweeting about the sensitive issue of mental illness, one might assume I’d be on the receiving end of quite a bit of unhinged abuse, but I’m pleased to say its way less than 1%. And even when I do get some unpleasant person popping up, I see it as sort of a challenge to my emotional maturity, in that I ‘walk away’ from engagement, because A – it won’t make me feel good if I argue back, and B, it’s just what they want, so by refusing to engage you give them the best possible reposte.

I am in no doubt that many of the people who follow me and write to me, would not do so if I was an office colleague, or maybe even a friend in the truer sense.  And because the comparative anonymity encourages them to open up, one is able to help quickly, as the exigencies of 140 characters, or a quick FB message, means the sender gets down to the rubric pretty damn quick. It enables a surfer to cruise until they find a kindred spirit, and move on again if it becomes apparent they misjudged things. It’s a whole new opportunity compared to seeing the family Doctor and being referred to a specialist. I came from a very small village, and it wouldn’t have been hard for me to imagine I was the only mentally ill person on the Doctor’s register. No way was I ever going to chat with him when he knew my Mum socially or whatever. Ok that’s an extreme example, but many will identify with it.

So used with care and discretion, I feel the web offers a truly wonderful medium to get people talking about their condition. For me its therapeutic on two levels, being good for me to learn and see that I’m not alone, and at the same time be able to share advice and one’s experience which undoubtedly generates a ‘feel good’ factor.

My words can find themselves In Mental Illness Journal in Los Angeles just hours after writing. Amazing!  

To me the social media aspect of the web is as disinhibiting as a Nudist beach must be to a Naturist.  The beauty of my medium of choice is that I don’t have to avoid chopping wood or playing leapfrog!

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One Response to “Online Disinhibition – a plus for Mental Health?”

  1. On April 19, 2013 at 5:10 pm carol smith responded with... #

    But Jay,we open up to you because of the very real fact that YOU HAVE THIS MENTAL ILLNESS SO THEREFORE, YOU ARE THE MAN ON THIS SITE. I don’t share this illness of mine with very many people because they trivialize it, or demonize it, or make wrong assumptions about it and me so why open up to a person that cannot ever relate? They just cannot do it. They shake their heads “yes, yes,” and walk away knowing nothing about this illness.
    Keep being here for us because people for us are rare finds.

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