I’m absolutely delighted that Sue Sibbald @BPDFFS has produced this guest post on #tweetchats for my blog. Hope you enjoy and do let Sue know what you think:
The #chat has become a popular feature on Twitter, with many people taking part. I co-run a chat on Twitter called #BPDChat with @amanda_stand, which was launched in April 2012 for people with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. Each week we have a topic which people discuss for an hour, for example’ the positives of #BPD’ and’ self esteem and what helps to improve it’.
I also take part in other chats such as # MHChat , and occasionally on #NURChat, #OTchat and #nhssm. Some may say I’m a bit of a chat addict?
Whilst participating and running my own chat I started wondering about the reasons people love to join in these #chats – so here are a few thoughts, which I’m sure people could add to…
So what is the purpose of a chat and why do people decide to set them up? It can be quite a bit of work organising one and it’s not very well paid…. hmm volunteering again. To be brutally honest when #BPDChat was originally set up by @broken_mind and me last year its sole purpose was to simply provide a space for people to come together at the same time and chat. The idea came at about 11am and the chat took place later that night. It trended on Twitter – I often wondered who was taking part as it was a bit of a blur to be honest. Peers talking together on a chat in full public gaze, to have the confidence to do that, to feel able, who would have thought it? Particularly from those with such a highly stigmatised diagnosis.
For me this peer led chat is about supporting one another, educating each other to gain insight and understanding, sharing coping skills so we can manage better day to day and in crisis and sharing research. It’s also about just being together and most importantly as the tag line says ‘YOU ARE NOT ALONE’. The chat, I feel, engenders feelings of belonging and not being out there by yourself struggling alone, feeling you are one of a kind. I Know when I was diagnosed I felt so isolated, I knew there were others in similar situations, but where?
I think through #BPDChat we have created a virtual community, a place of safety, so you are not left feeling quite so alone.
People do go onto form friendships and then even meet in real life – wonderful.
As an aside, I think listening is an interesting skill on Twitter, how do you really get meaning from the 140 characters? It can be difficult, but it is important on the chat to stay present as it can be really busy. This is why we have two or three of us running it, so we can ensure people are listened to and their voices heard. People with BPD can often feel rejected, so this can be really important. I also think it helps as sometimes you feel you are shouting into the void that is Twitter, words or moments to connect can be lost.
I’m just using words here to give understanding to people, I want to call the other #chats that are held the ‘professional’ chats – the people who are working as practitioners in mental health services.
These chats are usually subject led - for example, recently #MHChat ran one on ‘stigma’ and ‘stereotyping’ was another. I perceive subtle and some quite strong differences with these chats and our peer led ones. Quite often people give text book answers to the questions – stating facts, exchanging very strong opinions, debating and quite often simply ‘selling’ themselves. I often wonder if some people are on the chats as an advertising platform for their products… they make money from mental health don’t you know. I wonder how big a business it is? But you can get such a lot of information from these chats, and it’s interesting to see the different views and the discussions taking place.
When I first went onto #MHChat i wondered if they hated me being there as I was a person who used services. I think I was one of the first to go on that #chat. They were very welcoming, but I did feel a sense of not quite belonging. However as time has gone on there are so many people on there, things have changed, it’s expected. These things evolve.
I see on some of the smaller specialised chats such as #OTchat and #nhssm people do come together more to share information, what works, what’s the latest thinking and people seem to know one another, are’ virtual friends’. They are the little cosy chats. Some may see them as quite cliquey, but when I have nipped on I feel they would make me a cup of tea in reality.
The most positive thing to come out of these chats is that the boundaries between people using services and professionals are becoming blurred, we talk together, we share and it feels like we are equals and it’s so positive. I think it should be a rule on Twitter chats, we all come together as equals to discuss and share. We can learn from one another. I wonder if we should state this implicitly or is it understood by everyone taking part? I do think it’s a very important point, everyone feels valued, everyone’s opinion is valid.
I believe the #chat is a wonderful invention and I apologise to people who may know me when I clog up your timelines on a Sunday during #BPDChat. I am wondering what your thoughts are about #chats? Please let me know.