SMISH: Social Media-Induced Self Hate
A new mental disease for the Internet age is proposed for inclusion in the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders: Social Media-Induced Self-Hate (“SMISH”). This proposal stems from the writer’s inquiry into a closely-related disorder, dubbed SMIDS for Social Media-Induced Delusional Disorder, and explores the likelihood that both SMISH and SMIDS may simultaneously afflict one individual, with one disorder or the other gaining the upper hand due primarily to the nature of the sufferer’s interactions with Social Media.
The primary subjective characteristics of SMISH are a sense of insecurity and compulsive reinforcement-seeking behavior through Social Media. Secondary characteristics are a fear of judgment by Social Media Peers (“SMPeers”) and compulsive propitiatory behavior intended to head off judgment and establish trust-links that will protect the SMISH-sufferer from becoming an Object of Hatred among their SMPeers. A tertiary characteristic is total involvement with the Social Media world and a corollary loss of interest in relationships with Real World Peers aside from interactions within the Social Media world. At that point, SMISH has ensnared the sufferer in a cycle of addictive behavior from which they will likely exit only after a period of serious self-assessment, or an intervention by concerned friends and relations.
The objective indications of SMISH usually manifest sequentially and in conjunction with the emergence of the subjective characteristics outlined above. Victims generally progress from incipient SMISH, characterized by an inclination to overvalue SMPeers and devalue Non-Social Media relationships, to acute SMISH, characterized by increasingly compulsive abuse of Social Media, to the third level of true addictive behavior, characterized by frenzied posting and craven toadying to SMPeer authority-figures. The disease often takes hold in an acute form over the course of a few evenings, and progress to a chronic condition over a period of weeks.
SMISH does not require any particular type of host subject to become established, and the notion that only certain types are predisposed should be rejected at the outset. Narcissistic personalities might seem less inclined to SMISH than insecure types; however, the desire to gain mass approval of SMPeers appears to reveal hidden faults in even robust personalities, that, like gullies that turn to ravines overnight in a torrential flood, become deep fissures, exposing the raw heart of a painfully-suffering ego.
SMISH can produce consequences that seem merely pathetic, as when one sees a young girl posting compliments in praise of aggressive male personalities in hopes of receiving a word of approval. For youthful sufferers of this stripe, moderate treatment modalities, including redirection of the individual toward non-Social Media relationships and relationship counseling, may be entirely adequate. However, SMISH can evolve in two other identified directions: a suicidal state, or SMIDS.
Suicide due to SMISH is an established phenomenon for which a brief online search will provide sufficient anecdotes to eliminate doubt as to whether SMISH can be fatal. What is essential is that caregivers realize that once suicidal ideation has taken hold of a SMISH-sufferer, the condition cannot be dismissed as merely an Internet neurosis. Treatment for SMISH-induced suicidal ideation must be as radical as the condition, with the understanding that the stakes are life and death. The sufferer’s use of Social Media must be terminated immediately, all communication with or about SMPeers must cease, and an intensive program of self-approval must be put in place. Physical exercise, outdoor recreation, and non-reflective outward-oriented activities should supplant the previous introverted, obsessive attachment to Social Media. Such an aggressive course of therapy may well produce dramatic results in a short period of time if the disease is caught before it progresses too far.
The evolution of SMISH into SMIDS is far more insidious, however, because SMIDS-sufferers outwardly direct their pain towards the Objects of Hatred who are their chosen online prey. Like road-rage on the streets and highways, SMIDS creates hazards for other individuals of which society must be mindful. Since a separate discussion of SMIDS has already been published, we will not repeat that analysis here, and rather discuss briefly why SMISH has the potential to co-exist with or turn into SMIDS.
Simply put, SMISH is at bottom fueled by the fear of judgment by SMPeers. Among the community of SMPeers, dominant, aggressive personalities skilled in ad hominem argument and the use of pointed invective rule the roost. SMISH-sufferers are often passive personalities who lack verbal combat skills. Although initially attracted to Social Media because many of their Real World Peers are interacting online, as they learn to deploy propitiatory tactics such as shilling and toadying for their more aggressive SMPeers, they are seduced by the online environment and become addicted to its self-abasing rituals. Nevertheless, over time, they find themselves both immersed in self-hate at having sold their integrity for an impermanent sense of personal safety, and walking on eggshells, experiencing profound anxiety about the possibility of becoming an object of online derision, or most fearfully, an actual Object of Hatred (“ObHat”).
Many SMISH-sufferers adapt to their passive role online, and master the craven postures of appeasement seen on so many blogs and bulletin boards, where covens of SMISH-sufferers gather around dominant SMPeers in fulsome displays of unwholesome adulation. Many SMISH-sufferers alternate between SMISH and SMIDS on an occasional basis, joining occasionally with Social Media Mobs to hurl Cybercurses at various ObHats, thereby demonstrating their loyalty to dominant SMPeers, and ensuring themselves against becoming an ObHat themselves. Although not being entirely committed to the aggressive conduct, they nevertheless engage in it convincingly, much like an ordinary citizen who finds herself caught in a momentary mob hysteria, then later thinks better of it. Finally, some SMISH-sufferers “ripen” into the pure aggressive neurosis of SMIDS, as they discover that the only way to feel “safe” in a toxic Social Media environment is with a verbal rock in their hand, ready to give as good as they get. They have contacted their inner brownshirt, and civil society has gained a new enemy. For further discussion of SMIDS, see the related article.