Hello, Darkness

If you're not a basketball fan, you've probably never heard the name Royce White but I reckon you might hear a lot more about him in years to come, if not for his skills on the court, then because of his thoughts on mental health ...

White, who is 203cm tall (6' 8"), 118kg, 21-years-old and was picked 16th in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets, has polarised the American sports media with his comments about how basketball players are treated by their billionaire owners.

What's startling is the kid hasn't played a single minute of professional ball and is working through a contract dispute with the Rockets centred on management acknowledging and catering to his anxiety disorder that makes it difficult for him to fly or even drive.

It's a topic I plan to cover further next week, however, White recently did a fantastic interview with Grantland's Chuck Klosterman that veered in a slightly new direction I thought I'd share with you.

Klosterman, who's known for his pop culture musings for The New York Times and books like Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto and Eating the Dinosaur, makes a pretty clear-eyed assessment of White's personality.

"There are times when White seems like a brilliant ninth-grader who just wrote a research paper on mental illness and can't stop talking about it," says Klosterman.

"He's arrogant, and perhaps not as wise as he believes himself to be. But sometimes he offers genuine insight into the mediated discomfort of modernity, such as when we discuss Twitter."

I love Twitter - I've become a complete fan, simply because of the way it aggregates disparate pieces of news, academia, literature and fart jokes.

Follow the right people and you get a completely refreshing view of what thoughtful humans are remonstrating about and/or doing.

The back and forth bitching and snark? Well, I try to just ignore it, and if someone abuses me, I rarely engage, just block 'em and move on to the thoughts of someone far smarter than them and me.

However, the people who do engage in the back and forth bitching, the trolling, self-promotion, networking and transparently hypocritical "victim advocacy" of Twitter prove a point White makes quite well.

He says of Twitter and his 145,000 odd followers: "As much as we want to think that these are just people behind computer screens, those people are living next door to you.

"They are people behind computer screens in schools. In hospitals. Working in Washington, D.C. These are real people.

"How many times does this stuff have to happen before we admit something really disturbing is going on here? I think one person tweeting 'F--- you, go kill yourself' is disturbing.

"But when you get into the hundreds of those tweets? The thousands of those tweets? I see a lot of people out there with really volatile mental disorders that are not getting help. Because I go to their own Twitter pages, and I can see they're not just sending those messages to me. They're sending them to a bunch of people.

"I mean, if you tweet at me five times in seven minutes because I'm not playing for a team you have no real connection to? That is not good. That suggests mental illness. And even if you say, 'But I love this team to death,' it means you've put too much investment into entertainment. It's probably not good for you," says White.

As Klosterman puts it: White "views social media as 'the greatest census of our era.' And the census data he's collecting is really, really dark".

I've got to wonder how much truth there is in that assessment. The majority of my interactions on Twitter are benign or humourous, but when I do Tweet something a little raw, it's incredible the fury people can work themselves into.

About 140 characters.

On a computer.

Written by a stranger.

It's like picking up a scrap of paper at a bus stop you see someone drop. It bears a sentence you don't agree with, that you might even find offensive.

So you get on the bus, sit down next to that person and for the next 30 minutes you abuse them to the point it would usually provoke some kind of physical, if not legal, response.

Yeah, that's healthy.

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.