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Twitter has a new feature called Spaces.
Basically, it's an audio chatroom.
Anyone can create one, and anyone can join.
I've joined a few in the past, but I've only ever listened in, never saying anything.
Yesterday, I decided to push through my fear and host my first Twitter Space.
I called it Mental Health + Social Media.
This is how it went.
Twitter Spaces - The Final Frontier for Mental Health?
First of all, I had no idea what I was doing.
Maybe I should have researched it a bit more, but I like exploring technology and learning as I go.
So, I announced earlier in the day that I was thinking about hosting a Space, and I asked if anyone would be interested.
I got good feedback, so I set the time for 730 PM mountain and announced my intention to the world.
At the designated time, I tapped the Twitter Space button on the app and got mentally prepared.
First things first, I didn't actually know how any of the hosting features worked.
So, as people started to trickle in, I frantically started tapping various icons on my phone as I welcomed the individuals who were starting to show up.
I told them that I was learning as I was going but that I wasn't sure how all of this was going to work.
Eventually, about 10 people stayed in the room, so I decided to get started.
I learned that people can raise their hands if they want to speak. I also learned that Space attendees start off in "listener" mode and that a host can invite people to speak.
Listeners can also request to speak, but it's up to the host to actually give them permission.
All of this can be done by tappity-tapping around in the Space.
So I asked if anyone wanted to talk or ask some questions.
This is when the real fun started...
One of the first people to speak was a guy in Mexico.
I noticed him because he had just disagreed with something I tweeted, but I was taken back by how kind and articulate he sounded when he spoke.
He was the one person in the Space to have wifi issues, so he cut in and out at times, but he made several thoughtful comments. He spoke about how stigma is worse in Mexico and that the listeners in the U.S. should feel fortunate that they can talk as openly as they can. He also talked about how he was going to school for psychology.
It made me think.
Soon, others began to speak.
There were a few people from Canada, and I started to facilitate a discussion about how the mental health care system operates in that country.
It sounded to be just as broken as the U.S. mental health care system, if not more so.
While this was happening, one man talked about the trouble he faced while trying to get care.
He vulnerably shared that he had survived five suicide attempts and that the people he was supposed to get treatment from ended up attacking him and taking him to court.
His actions were criminalized, but he fortunately got support from another provider literally across the hall from the original provider who demonized him.
While all of this was happening, people in the room were tapping to show their support, usually providing a 100 emoji 💯 or a fist emoji ✊, which I think is used to show solidarity.
Now let me tell you something, as chaotic as it first seemed, I really was impressed by how the structure of the Space made for easy facilitation on my part.
I was able to mute people if needed, but I never needed to.
Up to 10 people can have "speaker" status at a time, and I could see when others wanted to speak.
It warmed my heart to hear the voices of people I only have ever known through their written words.
I've become quite close with some of the people who joined, tweeting and messaging with them on a weekly basis.
So it was so nice to hear their voices and get the nuance behind their tweets.
One of the attendees was a really nice guy from South Dakota.
He's messaged me to ask questions in the past, and I can tell he might look up to me.
I never know how to feel about this because I still think of myself as a normal guy who just tweets about his passions.
But I have to remember that all the people who use Twitter are human beings at the end of the day.
He spoke of his desire to help others by sharing his stories.
He spoke from the heart, and he encouraged others when they spoke.
In fact, almost everyone who spoke always started their statements by thanking the previous person for their courage and candor.
I had goosebumps almost the entire 30-minute conversation.
In fact, I have goosebumps now.
And I think it has to do with how vulnerable everyone was. And how articulately they shared their concerns.
It didn't devolve into heated arguments, even when people spoke with fiery passion about what had happened to them as they tried to seek mental health care.
For most of the Space, 16-18 people were in the room.
That's amazing to me, that so many people would engage with strangers on a Monday night. About MENTAL HEALTH.
There was even a woman from Yemen who apologized that English was not her first language.
She spoke slowly and haltingly at times, but she made an excellent point that stigma does not just stop when people have more knowledge. She talked about how, in her culture, people are actually quite educated about mental health, but there's still a lot of stigma.
It really made me think.
The whole event made me think.
Because I started it not knowing what I was doing, but by the end of it I had developed a new skill--facilitating an audio space with previous strangers.
I tried to give everyone who wanted to speak a chance to speak.
I tried to inject humor when appropriate.
For instance, someone with the Twitter handle, "We are all weirdos" wanted to say something right before I had to end the event.
I thought it would be a perfect segue to closing thoughts before we wrapped up and went our separate ways.
Because we all were weirds, random people who decided to join an audio chat room about mental health on Twitter.
And it was a great closing.
It got some laughs, both audio laughs from those with speaking status and some laughing emojis 😂 as well.
It was a wonderful experience hosting my first Twitter Space.
So, What Did I Learn After This Mental Health Twitter Space Experiment?
I learned that people are craving these kinds of conversations.
I also learned that so many people have been wronged by a system that was supposed to help them.
I learned that some people felt called to work in the system. One woman was a social worker like me. She's working in a rural part of Canada, although she said she has a hard time doing work in a broken system and is thinking about leaving.
Other people work outside of the system to change it. That's what I'm doing now.
And I learned that people know about me and my life. It was a bizarre feeling.
One woman congratulated me for leaving my job and going out on my own to be an entrepreneur. Others referenced tweets I had made in the past.
Lastly, I learned that this is just the beginning.
Immediately after, some of my followers tweeted about the Space and how much they enjoyed it.
The nice guy from South Dakota messaged me and looped me into a conversation with a young woman who had reached out to him earlier that day for help. He wasn't sure how to support her, and he mentioned that I had been a good resource for him.
Most of all, I learned that there is so much more to people than their Twitter handle or what they actually tweet.
Tweets are just words, and there is very little nuance in short statements.
You can't get the full context just from reading a few hundred characters on a screen.
In fact, a few people had disagreed with a tweet I made right before the Twitter Space started.
They accused me of things that I knew in my heart weren't true.
I consider myself an independent thinker / artist, and I don't tweet to get people to like me. I tweet to get people to think and, hopefully, respond.
One of the people who disagreed with me joined the Space and respectfully shared his views.
It gave me a whole new appreciation for where he was coming from.
I wish more people would do what he did.
All in all, my first Twitter Space was a massive success.
It left me feeling energized and wanting to do more.
People who missed it asked when the next one would be.
And people who were there responded to my tweets saying they looked forward to the next one.
I plan to host Twitter Spaces about mental health one to two times a week.
How could I not?
This is my passion.
I love what I'm doing.
I love where mental health conversations are going.
If I can be of service to others, I'm happy to play whatever small part I can to keep the conversation going.