I am deeply disturbed by the recent quiz on Playbuzz that purports to inform its takers whether or not they are bipolar. For this reason I have composed the following petition on change.org which I ask you to sign and circulate among your friends:
Buzzfeed calls itself the largest humor site on Facebook. It reaches nearly 500,000 people, many of whom are impressionable teenagers and young adults.
Recently, it published quizzes purporting to identify whether the test taker was bipolar or OCD. There were many problems with these quizzes.
The first was that many of the questions — especially on the Bipolar quiz — had nothing to do with the disease itself. People with bipolar disorder who have taken the test have been told that they don’t have the disease. Others who don’t have it, have been told that they have.
Second, they make light of syndromes that wreck the lives of those who struggle with them.
Third, the results may give the people the illusion that they have the disease when they don’t or don’t have it when they do. This can lead people to unwisely abandon their treatment or eat up valuable time at the psychiatrist assuaging their fears that they have the illness when they do not.
Fourth, the test has no medical disclaimers to the effect that it is no substitute for accurate diagnosis by a medical professional.
Fifth, the staff at Buzzfeed has been disingenuous about these harms and refuses to remove the tests from their site on the grounds that they are “just entertainment”.
We who live with mental illness live with the hardship of stigma. We are treated like children. We are told that we are faking our symptoms or that they “really aren’t that bad”. Buzzfeed’s arrant insensitivity must end.
Please sign the petition at the site.
Difficult to end when I am feeling stable but energized and impossible when I am manic, InterNet disputes are a drug of choice for me. I just ended an exchange that went on for over an hour with someone on Facebook. She would not stop and neither would I. It seemed to me that no matter what I said to refute her, she kept repeating the same thing over and over. My ire was up: I had a defense to make and, equally important, someone to skewer. Then in the middle of it, I realized that I had become a Facebook Mr. Hyde, shared one last anecdote, and announced the end of my participation. Others have responded to the thread since then and I have not read what they said. Whether they indict me or stand up for me, I shall not involve myself anymore.
Long ago — on the abUSENET, I learned that it was a waste of time arguing against the trolls and cranks of the Net. If I spent a long time preparing an intelligent rebuttal to something they said, they’d dismiss it with a brute-force remark or lame witticism. Some even went so far as to create robots that would repeat the same argument every time certain key words appeared anywhere in the newsgroups. You could easily exhaust yourself fighting these. I gave it up for the Web because I realized that the newsgroups were a waste of time.
Weekend time on the ward was spent waiting for someone to talk to you. I was standing in front of the nurses’ station, having completed the obligatory morning group therapy, when I was guided to a small room and told to have a seat. Then a large bearded man with a file came into the room and read over the notes that had been collected since my arrival the night before. I had arrived late the previous afternoon after I had texted my last will and testament to my wife and sat on a log studying which vein to cut. A phone call from my psychiatrist interrupted my concentration. We talked for a few minutes and I agreed to go to the hospital. Once I got there, I — the fellow who had been thinking of ending it all — walked up to the nurses’ station and told them that I was diabetic and needed my night meds delivered on schedule if I was going to maintain my blood sugar levels. They nodded dutifully and wrote notes in my chart.
This information was in the manila folder that Dr. Spears brought into the room. After reviewing the annotations, he looked up at me, leaned forward, and asked in a gentle voice “Has anyone ever told you that you were bipolar?”
Many people have told me that they were devastated when they heard the news. Others refused to believe it. I was of that class of people who felt a moment’s pause and then felt relief. At last I had a workable explanation of the torrential moods that afflicted me over the years. I had tried the boot-strap method of getting through my despairs. People had sometimes asked me if I was taking drugs — a question that surprised me because I was the opposite of an addict and a self-medicator — I didn’t touch drugs or alcohol. For 11 years, I had relied on Prozac because it had worked almost instantly to curb my depression. The dark nights of the soul I experienced during that time I wrote off to normal ups and downs. I spent up our credit cards to $40,000, messed up my already fragile teeth by grinding on them, and fought frequently with people on the Net. Was this bipolar disorder? Then, I felt, there was a treatment and I threw myself into recovery.
Bipolar_Blogs arose when I learned that it was possible to set up a special account for retweeting news. I knew that there were many people out there in the world who wrote good blogs about their struggle with bipolar disorder (including me) whose work just wasn’t making it out to the rest of the world. The blogs I knew from my own explorations told many stories about bipolar disorder. I collected a list, set them up at a feed retweeter, and released it into the Twitterverse. What people also missed was recent and reliable information about their disorder. So I added feeds from the various government agencies that provided abstracts on the latest developments in understanding organic brain dysfunctions. When my ADD allowed it, I sought out more blogs, found new news sources, and hand-posted numerous articles that I had found which talked about bipolar disorder and other matters concerning the brain.
But not every voice could be heard via the feeds. Some of them tweeted their concerns directly to Bipolar_Blogs and I made it the policy to retweet them as long as they weren’t hateful, promoting pseudo-science, or simply advertising. When I had the energy, I checked my ever-expanding feed to glean what I could from others. There is only so much one can say in 140 characters even if you are a Twitter master. I kept running into people who wanted their own blogs and didn’t know how to start. The day came when I put out feelers, asking who would like to take part in a group blog. I also asked in some chatrooms and on Facebook. A few people indicated their interest, so I wrote out some rules for the blog and invited those who felt silenced by the circumstances of their illness to take part.
We’ll see how that goes.