Kim Lyons, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
December 31, 2023
U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) on Sunday told Meet the Press host Kristen Welker that while he was being treated for depression earlier this year, doctors advised him to stay off social media. The senator known for using his Twitter account to share opinions and policy positions —and to troll adversaries— said that social media may have made his depression worse.
“It’s an accelerant. Absolutely,” Fetterman told Welker. She asked if he was back on it, and Fetterman said he was on it “selectively,” and that he assumed there were “mean things” being said without having to look.
“I would just warn anybody that social media… I’ve never noticed anyone to believe that their health, their mental health has been supported by spending any kind of time on social media,” Fetterman added. “And if they do, I’d love to meet that person.”
Fetterman’s social media presence predates his time in the Senate; he and his wife Gisele had a running joke, for instance, where her photos on Twitter would crop his head out and focus on her outfits (he’s 6 foot 8 and she’s a good deal shorter). Gisele tweeted on Nov. 17 that she was taking a break from social media, and her formerly robust Instagram account appeared to be inactive as of this writing.
During the 2022 Senate campaign against Republican candidate Mehmet Oz, Fetterman’s team used social media to post scathing critiques of Oz’s many gaffes (crudité anyone?), even going so far as to launch a site called “Fettermemes” that allowed followers to generate memes and send them to the campaign.
Fetterman has remained active on the platform formerly known as Twitter; one notable post earlier this month encouraging indicted New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez to resign included a paid Cameo video from expelled former Congressman George Santos of New York. The video received more than 7 million views.
The conversation on Meet the Press was part of a larger focus on mental health, a topic Fetterman has discussed at length, detailing his battles with depression and decision to get inpatient treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center in February, not long after being sworn in to the Senate.
“People have approached me in person and in letters or on social media saying ‘thank you, I decided not to harm myself,” or ‘I got help.’ So I’m going to keep having this conversation,” he said. The interview, which appeared to have been recorded before Christmas and before Congress recessed for the year, briefly touched on policy issues, when Fetterman said this year’s Thanksgiving was the “best” of his life.
“Everybody was there, and I was just so grateful,” he told Welker. “I am so grateful, I hope that we’re able to deliver the kind of aid for Ukraine and Israel and Taiwan and all of those things and be able to go home and enjoy Christmas with my family.”
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