The New York Times published a write-up on Friday by researchers who conducted a study about how internet usage is linked to depression. Going to spoil my own post here but guess what, you’re depressed.
I’m going to tell you how they conducted their research, and then I’ll wrap up the findings in a snappy list form that your attention span can handle — you won’t have to go over to NYT and sift through a bunch of “paragraphs,” as the old media calls them.
So here’s what the researchers did. They rounded up around 200 university students and had them fill out a survey; the test scores of which would indicate depressive symptoms or lack thereof. Within this group, it was found that around 30% displayed symptoms of depression (which is in-line with national estimates for college students). Researchers then went to the university’s internet people, or whoever they are, the ones who know how to set up wireless networks and sh-t, and collected data (non-sensitive stuff; from the article — “This didn’t mean snooping on what the students were looking at or whom they were e-mailing; it merely meant monitoring how they were using the Internet — information about traffic flow that the university customarily collects for troubleshooting network connections and such”) on the research subjects’ (200+) internet usage. From this, they saw trends emerge. These guys are at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, by the way.
And here’s where the list starts. This is what depressed people do on the internet:
- High levels of file-sharing (think: BitTorrent, Soulseek, Pirate Bay).
- Very high email usage (“frequent checking of e-mail may relate to high levels of anxiety, which itself correlates with depressive symptoms”).
- Lots of switching between internet applications, such as “email, chat rooms, and games,” which indicates difficulty concentrating.
- “Increased amounts” of watching videos, gaming, and chatting.
So basically what these guys found out is that everyone on the internet is depressed. They hope to use this research, one day, to create a program that monitors your own internet usage and alerts you when you’re depressed. Which seems really weird to me, but that’s what the article says. It says “It would monitor your Internet usage and alert you when your usage patterns might signal symptoms of depression.” Oh, I didn’t know I was INCREDIBLY LONELY AND THAT I HAVEN’T TOUCHED ANOTHER HUMAN BEING IN OVER EIGHT MONTHS AND I’M NERVOUS I MIGHT HAVE SOME KIND OF STD AND I UNCONTROLLABLY MUMBLE WHEN I’M INTIMIDATED, I DIDN’T KNOW THAT COMPUTER, THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME KNOW THAT I’M MISERABLE. GOD. That’s what the computer would do, with that program.
That actually seems funny, a depression monitoring program, beeping when you “become” “depressed.”