Why I Won’t Use Boomerang — And Why You Need to Know

I use social media. I’m on it a lot. In fact, it’s part of my job. I get paid for it. I blog, I post, I’m a creative end user. I write horror for digital release. I’m on my computer every day.

I’m ok with apps, but apps themselves don’t do much for me on their own. It’s the end user who creates eye-catching, provocative messaging and communications, using apps to share information with their audiences. But it’s neat to learn about apps that can help create memorable, remarkable, sharable posts.

That being said, I’m declaring a war against Boomerang.

Why, you ask?

I have a brain injury.

I’m one of more than half a million people in Ontario who have a traumatic or acquired brain injury. We experience visuals differently. It’s not something we have control over, it simply means that we take a little longer to process visual stimuli—our brains (plastic and flexible as they are!) generate new pathways for comprehension, which is terrific. However, in order to do that, our noggins have to work harder to see and comprehend the unexpected. Often it’s a matter of seconds; I have been known to admit publicly that sometimes I can’t watch or listen fast enough to keep up with unusual speech patterns or jerky, unanticipated micro-movements. But more than that, it makes me sick.

Many of us have vestibular disorders as a result of our injuries. Our brain and inner ear balance is ‘off’, which often results in dizziness, vertigo, migraines and nausea. It also causes sensitivity to light and sound. Boomerang exacerbates all of these symptoms, and exhausts us as well.

You wouldn’t know that from looking at us. There’s not a ‘goal light’ that goes on over our heads when we’re not getting the full picture. But strobe lights, flashing, and apps like Boomerang can debilitate us within microseconds.

Shortly after my injury, one of my team asked me to review a presentation he’d put together on a new social media platform. I stood over his shoulder, watching the screen with anticipation to see what he’d created (he was, and is, a design superstar). The moment the presentation began, I felt nauseated. Then dizziness hit. I ran from the room and vomited.

It wasn’t the reaction he was expecting.

And at first, I didn’t know what was wrong; I just knew that I couldn’t view the work he’d done. Then I discovered that ‘zippy’ PowerPoint presentations created the same result. Bouncing images, words shooting from several directions—well, that was enough to make me pinch my eyes shut and rethink my meal choices. If you get my drift.

Thankfully, the novelty of zippy, multi-directional PowerPoint presentations has had its day. I recall sitting in meetings during the early days of this century, when it was easy to determine who just discovered the advanced PP features—unfortunately, the zooming in and out and flashing words often did little to enhance the message being delivered.

These days, Boomerang takes eye movement, comprehension and vestibular distress to an entirely new level. I ‘get’ the novelty and the attraction to Boomerang—it can be attention-grabbing, amusing and novel. But just because you can use an app or a platform that is new and novel doesn’t mean you need to. If your message is compelling, or if your dog is cute chasing its tail, you don’t need to jerk it back and forth to make it more so.

Interestingly enough, there are other apps and computer programs that actually aid in brain rehabilitation after injury. Generally, after an injury, doctors will advise limiting computer time because it does create a brain strain. But it’s almost impossible to avoid computer and phone use for long. So many of us get back to our regular patterns, and if we self-monitor correctly, we’ll have little problem using technology.

Unfortunately, Boomerang throws a wrench into our rehab. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining—but I think it’s important that Boomerang users understand the potential impact that the app can have on those of us with brain injuries. Go ahead and share your messages and your cat videos. But please stop jerking us around.

Catherine Kenwell is the survivor of several brain injuries, and lives with post-concussion syndrome and PTSD. She is a graduate of Brock University’s Neurorehabilitation: Assisting Recovery & Function in Everyday Life Following Brain Injury and Advanced Brain Injury Rehabilitation programs.