Social Media Induced Disease (MSMI): Can the Tourette be transmitted by video?

At some point the question arose as to whether social media could induce a disease like Tourette’s syndrome. Is this “contagion” possible through the screens?

Last update: November 01, 2021

“Integrated and apocalyptic” was the metaphor used by Umberto Eco to refer to the different positions around the mass media. Today we could make a parallel to comment on what is known as social media induced disease (MSMI).

“There I met my partner, so I keep in touch with my family who lives far away, you can find out what is happening on the other side of the planet”. Those would be the integrated ones. On the other hand, there are the apocalyptics, who argue that social media is affecting our health and is guilty of disease, like MSMI.

Even on this issue, a diagnosis of disease induced by social networks has been confused with Tourette’s syndrome, due to the similarity of some symptoms. But no, it is not that the Tourette is contagious or that the networks replicate this syndrome through their screens.

What is Social Media Induced Disease (MSMI)?

Mass Social Media Induced Illness (MSMI) or disease induced by social networks is the name given to a pathology of social origin that spreads through social networks. The fact that it is sociogenic refers to the fact that multiple people, without an environmental or physical reason to justify it, begin to experience some type of discomfort or illness.

The emphasis on social media serves to identify the medium of contagion, which differentiates MSMI from other massive sociogenic diseases. The MSMI hypothesis (published in a study published in Oxford University Press), links the increase in patients entering a clinic that specializes in Tourette syndrome with the dissemination of videos showing people with said syndrome.

The antecedent is a popular youtuber German named Jan Zimmermann, who has said syndrome. His verbal tics were similar to those exhibited by patients in the clinic. That is, after viewing videos produced by the famous influencer, many young people would have contracted Tourette.

However, in this publication made by a team made up of researchers from the
Hannover Medical School Germany, it is clearly stated that it is not Tourette syndrome, but Similar tics that could be comparable, but do not make up this specific diagnosis.

The researchers even report that the patients admitted to the clinic had been misdiagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome. The influence of social networks was never taken into account at that time.

Tourette syndrome has specific characteristics that distinguish it from this condition reported in a German investigation.

How is social media-induced disease different from Tourette syndrome?

Following this study, doubts and fears regarding the use of social networks multiplied and its potential harm. However, it did not take long to get clarifications from specialists who mention that Tourette syndrome cannot be transmitted or induced through screens.

In this regard, various sources clarified that Tourette syndrome has its beginnings in childhood, while MSMI appears suddenly and at older ages. In this case, it would be a functional disorder that arises from a continuous and excessive exposure to social networks, along with other factors.

They also emphasized that MSMI tics are multiple and varied, more than in Tourette’s cases, which are small. Finally, when referring to people who actually had MSMI, the researchers denoted complex and stereotyped tics, of abrupt onset and located in the body and arms.

In Tourette syndrome the ticos are slow onset, located in the eyes and face.



How to prevent the use of social networks from affecting our health

It’s not Tourette, but it is important. With this idea in mind, what the researchers wanted to highlight is that MSMI is a new type of disease induced by social networks that shows the pressures and demands to which many young people are subjected. There is a desire to be unique and exceptional, turning your life into a constant wake-up call.

So it is not only about thinking about new rules of the game, with new social values, but also about rethinking a life a little further away from the screens in favor of psychological well-being.

Finally, there is also danger in MSMI, since the scale of social networks is global. Diseases and disorders are not localized. Hence, it called attention to acting together, collectively and articulated.

Therefore, here are some tips to prevent technology from affecting our health:

  • Limit usage time: reduce the revision of the networks, especially in hours close to rest.
  • Use alarms or notifications that alert us about their excessive use: It is possible to program functions that tell us that we are close to exceeding a certain amount of time online.
  • Do not use social networks in all our moments of rest: it is necessary to disconnect completely at certain times.
  • Sleeping with cell phones off or in airplane mode: in such a way that the flashing lights or the vibrating of the notifications do not interrupt our sleep.
Disconnect from social networks is necessary. Not because we suffer from a specific disease, but for psychological well-being.


Social media is not a panacea

Beyond the obvious impact that social networks have on our daily lives, it is important to stop hiding all the evils of the planet behind that category. Rather, it is necessary to unravel a range of practices and behaviors that are sustained and encouraged by ourselves.

People have full power of agency and change. They can start by setting limits on the use and consumption of new technologies. It is important not to demonize the presence of social networks. The key is in the mode of use.

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