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Hello, Darkness

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Royce White.

Royce White.

If you're not a basketball fan, you've probably never heard the name Royce White but I reckon you might hear a lot more about him in years to come, if not for his skills on the court, then because of his thoughts on mental health ...

White, who is 203cm tall (6' 8"), 118kg, 21-years-old and was picked 16th in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets, has polarised the American sports media with his comments about how basketball players are treated by their billionaire owners.

What's startling is the kid hasn't played a single minute of professional ball and is working through a contract dispute with the Rockets centred on management acknowledging and catering to his anxiety disorder that makes it difficult for him to fly or even drive.

It's a topic I plan to cover further next week, however, White recently did a fantastic interview with Grantland's Chuck Klosterman that veered in a slightly new direction I thought I'd share with you.

Klosterman, who's known for his pop culture musings for The New York Times and books like Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto and Eating the Dinosaur, makes a pretty clear-eyed assessment of White's personality.

"There are times when White seems like a brilliant ninth-grader who just wrote a research paper on mental illness and can't stop talking about it," says Klosterman.

"He's arrogant, and perhaps not as wise as he believes himself to be. But sometimes he offers genuine insight into the mediated discomfort of modernity, such as when we discuss Twitter."

I love Twitter - I've become a complete fan, simply because of the way it aggregates disparate pieces of news, academia, literature and fart jokes.

Follow the right people and you get a completely refreshing view of what thoughtful humans are remonstrating about and/or doing.

The back and forth bitching and snark? Well, I try to just ignore it, and if someone abuses me, I rarely engage, just block 'em and move on to the thoughts of someone far smarter than them and me.

However, the people who do engage in the back and forth bitching, the trolling, self-promotion, networking and transparently hypocritical "victim advocacy" of Twitter prove a point White makes quite well.

He says of Twitter and his 145,000 odd followers: "As much as we want to think that these are just people behind computer screens, those people are living next door to you.

"They are people behind computer screens in schools. In hospitals. Working in Washington, D.C. These are real people.

"How many times does this stuff have to happen before we admit something really disturbing is going on here? I think one person tweeting 'F--- you, go kill yourself' is disturbing.

"But when you get into the hundreds of those tweets? The thousands of those tweets? I see a lot of people out there with really volatile mental disorders that are not getting help. Because I go to their own Twitter pages, and I can see they're not just sending those messages to me. They're sending them to a bunch of people.

"I mean, if you tweet at me five times in seven minutes because I'm not playing for a team you have no real connection to? That is not good. That suggests mental illness. And even if you say, 'But I love this team to death,' it means you've put too much investment into entertainment. It's probably not good for you," says White.

As Klosterman puts it: White "views social media as 'the greatest census of our era.' And the census data he's collecting is really, really dark".

I've got to wonder how much truth there is in that assessment. The majority of my interactions on Twitter are benign or humourous, but when I do Tweet something a little raw, it's incredible the fury people can work themselves into.

About 140 characters.

On a computer.

Written by a stranger.

It's like picking up a scrap of paper at a bus stop you see someone drop. It bears a sentence you don't agree with, that you might even find offensive.

So you get on the bus, sit down next to that person and for the next 30 minutes you abuse them to the point it would usually provoke some kind of physical, if not legal, response.

Yeah, that's healthy.

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.

30 comments so far

  • I think sitting anonymously behind a computer screen has the same effect on many people's brains as, say, three large pitchers of beer. They take instant offence at things they didn't really comprehend, the react with non sequitur arguments and random insults, and then get hyper-aggressive when they're ignored or their wisdom isn't immediately accepted as fact. Sometimes they even follow you from thread to thread, like the blotto twit who insists on sticking his bleary face where-ever you are.

    It's not a good look.

    Commenter
    JEQP
    Date and time
    February 07, 2013, 6:54PM
    • What a complete load of @#*$ing, $@#%. I am anonymously sitting behind a computer screen - how dare you accuse me of being drunk!

      I always give up my bus seat for elderly people, so how does your argument apply? Anyway, why should we listen to the opinions of someone whose screen name is phonetically challenging to pronounce.

      And in response to your post on the other SMH article about "Girls maturing faster than guys", whilst I agree with you that girls are maturing a lot younger these days, I cannot agree that 12 is the new 20.

      [Note: dramatisation of JEQP's point for illustrative purposes only - any resemblance to real anonymous posters merely co-incidental]

      Commenter
      SmartMonkey
      Date and time
      February 08, 2013, 1:15PM
    • Tip o' th' hat, my good man.

      Commenter
      JEQP
      Date and time
      February 08, 2013, 4:18PM
  • People usually don't talk about religion and politics in real life. Because you know deep down you'll probably hate each other's guts over it if it's anything major. Especially with the way a lot of lefties grandstand when it comes to immigration and "racism", or the way Liberal voters have been behaving. Like a bunch of fascists. The internet allows us to talk about all this more interesting stuff and think about our responses, and let people know what we really think, a bit like emotional and intellectual toilet paper. I think it's pretty good, beats watching ACA.

    As for abusing sports people. Well no idea why anyone would want to do that, except for maybe towards Sharipova and Azarenka. But nah, couldn't do it. But it's not me losing out on millions because of the dirty way they play.

    Commenter
    Neil
    Date and time
    February 07, 2013, 8:04PM
    • Doesn't the name of the website summarise it's contents

      Commenter
      Albers
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      February 07, 2013, 8:08PM
      • on vomiting one's bilious nature at the pixelated public...

        getting toss testeroned baboons to learn typing skills may reduce Murder. on the other hand, it may just increase life's small m murders and increase fashion wars until all wake up to the fact that everyday gossip and bitching is being recorded for posterity - aka the discrimination and oppression of their children's children's children and drive the baboons to evolve as telepaths who kill each other without a whisper.

        the digital age seems to be breeding a nosy little creature, more marsupial than mammoth. will we ever be safe watering our front gardens at night?

        Commenter
        beno
        Location
        campin'out
        Date and time
        February 07, 2013, 9:36PM
        • I can see value in online comments on articles in major media organs like this where there is some level of comment moderation. Couldn't cop the unmoderated twitter. There is too much hate and stupidity in the world to invite any more into your day.

          Commenter
          rudy
          Date and time
          February 08, 2013, 5:17AM
          • The internet has created a communications link for those who probably would previously been recluses with little or no social contact.

            I, myself, have used some blogs in a confessional manner. It can be salutary. I've also stirred.

            The internet creates a conduit to say things that you'd never say person to person. Things profoundly intimate and vehemently vitriolic are passed between complete strangers.

            And, yep, you see obvious mental illness high and low. I can't imagine what it would be like moderating other than it would be one hell of an eye-opener.

            Commenter
            Troglodyte
            Location
            Tron's Pillion
            Date and time
            February 08, 2013, 8:05AM
            • There is a moderating influence on people's behaviour when they interact with others face to face. For starters if you say something provocative you may get a punch on the nose. And your poor behaviour would be noted by other persons who are present. Not so on the inter web. There are no restraints on behaviour and really, when it's all said and done what we are actually talking about is words that are typed in haste, often poorly thought out and sometimes regretted - especially if you happen to be outed publicly. There is an old German saying that roughly translates as 'food is cooked at a higher temperature than it is eaten'. In this context that means that people say daft things when nobody is looking but when it actually comes down to it they are not likely to follow through on them

              Commenter
              randomguy
              Location
              behind closed doors
              Date and time
              February 08, 2013, 8:12AM
              • I despise Twitter and Facebook. Really, I have no use for them at all. I like things that are written with depth and thoughfulness and neither of these platforms seem ideal for that sort of interaction. But I do think it's interesting that looking at someone's Twitter posts could point out someone with a mental illness. Because really, doesn't the (relative) anonymity allow people to spill what they really think about something? Very telling.

                Commenter
                TK
                Date and time
                February 08, 2013, 8:40AM

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