"WHAT WE CANNOT SPEAK ABOUT WE MUST TWEET": TRUST AMONG ISRAELI TWITTER USERS WITH DEPRESSION
Keywords:trust, twitter, depression, isreal, community
Research on self-revealing online environments in general and on internet-based medical support groups in particular has demonstrated that participants in such environments customarily assume others to be worthy of intimacy that is indeed reciprocated, resulting in a generalized climate of mutual trust that nevertheless meets significant challenges in actual online practice. While most previous studies have examined this phenomenon in the context of blogs, forums, and social media groups explicitly devoted to specific _physical_ illnesses, in this study we focus on a "naturally" developing, unstructured, a-hierarchical "community"-of-sorts that is based on a shared _mental_ disorder – Israeli Twitter users with depression. In-depth interviews with these users demonstrate how the unique affordances of Twitter in Israel – and especially its lack of popularity and its construction as the "anti-Facebook" – have enabled it to become a discursive space in which non-hegemonic voices are more prominent.
While Twitter users with depression were cautious in developing trust, once trust was inferred it became a central facet of their perception of Twitter and its supportive role. Users conceived of Twitter as a sanctuary and echo chamber in which people with depression can present their authentic selves to an empathetic, non-judgmental community of similar outcasts. At the same time, the community's expectations for profound authenticity paradoxically led some users to avoid tweeting about positive experiences. In addition, Twitter's marginal status allowed users to link their sense of _psychological_ reclusiveness to their sense of _political_ isolation in a climate in which leftist views are increasingly ostracized.