Dramas of Medicalization in Everyday Social Network Life

Saturday, 21 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Martin HARBUSCH, university of Kassel, Germany
Michael DELLWING, university of kassel, Germany
The term 'mental health' has become in many ways a catch-all term, most notably in institutions such as criminal justice and education. Next to the continuing extension of psychiatric ascriptions in medicine, social work, schools and other state institutions, there is the individual self-ascription on social media platforms, where psychiatric categories have become popular tools for self-identification. This development has introduced psychiatric labels into a market of meaning that often bypasses powerful organizational structures.

The place of reproduction of psychiatric labeling has therefore expanded. While classical critical approaches often painted the diagnosed as the victims of powerful practices of others, the social market of self-diagnosis options makes users subject to a power structure of diagnostic ascriptions that is subtler: one that privileges continuous self-observation, self-labeling and, most importantly, constant efforts to socially control the interactions of the self and others in these interpretive ventures.

This presentation will discuss the expansion of the market for disease categories, using classical and contemporary critical work on psychiatry. We will use material from an empirical study in social networks to investigate individual dramatizations of the self through socially shared psychiatric discourse from “everyday social network life,” extending the catch-all nature of the vocabulary even further.