I think anyone who knows me is aware I like a good discussion on most topics, especially those related to disability, and there are many days in the week where I am putting the world to rights with my PA. I think my biggest strength, which is also my biggest weakness at times is I care about everyone. I see grey where most people see black and white, as I believe there is always a win win solution if the issue is turned on its head.
Twitter can be a wonderful way of sharing ideas with people, but it can also be a terrible environment to challenge ideas as I have painfully discovered. I believe within the last 12 months, the way Twitter is used by apparent activists in relation to disability issues has harden into a level of hostile propaganda designed to attack the government with little room for debate or discussion. Myth upon myth has been built upon stoking a mob culture that is intimidating to say that least.
I often disagree with the assumptions about disabled people being used endlessly, and as the 'fool' I am, I openly challenge people's statements in an effort to provoke discussion and so hopefully cause better understanding. In any other environment, this would work, but on Twitter my actions deliver another result. The response from the person who has offended me is often simply to slur my mental health with one of the many possible insults available to them. Since these online 'activists' operate in packs, it is followed by further insults from people I have never heard of, let alone know. But what is more interesting is the after chat amongst themselves, which they do not realise I can read, where to reassure themselves that they are right they need to carefully psycho-analyse me as a lonely odd ball without friends, who has upset everyone important, like their world matters to me! This is of course done by people who only known me from the last few tweets and have no idea who I really am.
I think this happens because too many people tweet and retweet the latest anti-government insults to be a part of the crowd, without any understanding the complex issues around the remarks they are making. Within the security of their packs, they assume what they are saying is fact because all their 'friends' are saying it. This means when they are challenged by myself or others, to explain their viewpoint they are unable to do so because they have not really thought about it, and so the only way they can handle the situation is to deflect the issue back onto myself, slurring my mental health. Since everyone else in their pack is in the same boat and does not wish to be caught out, it encourages a collective bullying for their reassurance.
The reality is unconsciously or consciously, we all use one of the many insults related to mental health in one way or another, because these insults are now a part of everyday language, and I need to hold my hand up as much as anyone else. I feel insulting someone's mental health is very different to attempting to take how someone may be feeling to try to contextualise what someone may be trying to mean in what they are saying, which is not always obvious. Like everyone, I have triggers from specific personal experiences that will affect how I respond to specific situations.
That said I think there is something terrible brewing on Twitter, that could possibly explode during the forthcoming election, where stigma towards mental health is used to bully and intimidate those with specific views, even amongst disabled people, in a way we have never seen before. Twitter may have given the masses the ability to speak to each other, but it is still a tool in its infancy and we all need to develop new skills to use it safely and wisely. It also raises for me the fact that there is still immense prejudice towards mental health that requires tackling.