Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "There is an interesting read at the Atlantic where Laura Dimon writes that mass psychogenic illness, historically known as "mass hysteria"—is making a comeback and it appears that social media is a new vector for its spread. Mass hysteria such as the Salem Witch Trials of 1692-1693, the most widely recognized episode of mass hysteria in history, which ultimately saw the hanging deaths of 20 women, spreads through sight and sound, and historically, one person would have to be in the same room as somebody exhibiting symptoms to be at risk of 'catching' the illness. 'Not anymore,' says Robert Bartholomew, a sociologist who has studied over 600 cases of mass hysteria dating back to 1566, noting that social media — 'extensions of our eyes and ears' — speeds and extends the reach of mass hysteria. 'Epidemic hysterias that in earlier periods were self-limited in geography now have free and wide access to the globe in seconds,' says Bartholomew. 'It's a belief, that's the power here, and the technology just amplifies the belief, and helps it spread more readily.' In a recent case, nearly 20 students at a Western New York Junior-Senior High school began experiencing involuntary jerks and tics. Some believe that the Le Roy outbreak was a direct result of videos posted to YouTube by Lori Brownell, a girl with severe tics in Corinth, New York, 250 miles east of Le Roy. The story took off quickly, not just on the local and national news but on Facebook and autism blogs and sites devoted to mental health and environmental issues. Bartholomew warns that there is 'potential for a far greater or global episode, unless we quickly understand how social media is, for the first time, acting as the primary vector or agent of spread for conversion disorder.'"
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