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Depressed People Surf the Web Differently 278

Posted by Soulskill
from the quick-distractions dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from Medical Daily: "Researchers led by Sriram Chellappan from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, collected internet usage data from 216 college students enrolled at the university. The usage data was collected anonymously without interfering with the student’s normal internet usage for a month. The students were tested to see if they had symptoms of depression and analyzed internet usage based on the results. Depressed students tended to use the internet in much different ways than their non-depressed classmates. Depressed students used file-sharing programs, like torrents or online sharing sites, more than non-depressed students (PDF). Depressed students also chatted more and sent more emails out. Online video viewing and game playing were also more popular for depressed students."
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Depressed People Surf the Web Differently

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @05:00PM (#40080511)

    File-sharing, chatting, email, video games, watching videos--all those are the domain of the depressed, apparently. So wtf do the non-depressed do online, just read the newspaper and post ads on Craigslist?

    • by JustOK (667959) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @05:02PM (#40080535) Journal

      no point in waiting from some non-depressed (and non-maniacal) person to stop by here and let us know.

      • by skids (119237)

        Just in case, we should start development on a "detect-chipper-surfer" iptables module to install on the /. server to filter them out. Better safe than sorry.

    • by MrEricSir (398214) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @05:07PM (#40080597) Homepage

      Duh! Slashdot makes everyone happy!

      • by DigitalSorceress (156609) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @06:17PM (#40081299)

        Actually, I've found that anymore, reading Slashdot tends to just piss me off.

        It's not that I have a gripe with Slashdot or the users - it's just that every time I turn around, there's a story about some idiot politicians trying to run/ruin the web or some douchy patent trolls making millions by making folks pay out for using some "invention that the average high school level programmer could figure out in an hour... or .. well, just so much of the tech news nowadays - because it seems that it's all just everyone out to grab as much of the pie as they can and screw anyone who gets in their way.

        Wow, maybe I am depressed... nawww.. I know me - when I'm good and angry, I'm not depressed.

        Wait? what was the question?

    • by PCM2 (4486) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @05:16PM (#40080681) Homepage

      Makes sense to me that depressed people would do more file sharing. File sharing is a means to an end, not an activity in and of itself. It follows that a depressed person might say, "Fuck it, I'm just going to stay home and watch every episode of Game of Thrones and eat Cheetos until I fall asleep."

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      It's that they did MORE of it. I guess the depressed student sits in front of his computer 16 hours a day, while the nondepressed student turns it off and goes off to do something. Also the article says they suffer from ADD-like symptoms... constantly jumping from website to email to downloading and back to the web.

      Hmmm.
      I guess I'm depressed.
      Actually it's more like "bored".

    • by nospam007 (722110) * on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @05:23PM (#40080739)

      "File-sharing, chatting, email,..."

      They have it backwards.
      If you watched lots of shared Hollywood crap, you'd be depressed too.

    • Watch pr0n, I presume? In fact, doesn't that give you endorphins and all kind of goodies?

    • by PeanutButterBreath (1224570) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @05:42PM (#40080917)

      So wtf do the non-depressed do online, just read the newspaper and post ads on Craigslist?

      They log off more often and do some of the many things that are vital to all facets of human health and have no online equivalent.

    • by tonywong (96839)
      Anybody with a brain could have told them this. Depressed people go out less than people who don't suffer from depression. Staying at home = boredom unless you find things to do like download files, play on line games, email, chat etc.

      It's their way of coping. Once someone isn't depressed they go out more, which means less of the things like downloading files, playing online games etc.
      • Once someone isn't depressed they go out more. . .

        Really? I don't know one way or the other, but I wonder. For example, I would expect people who go out all the time, but only to get wasted and hook up with strangers, to demonstrate a higher incidence of depression. Just my gut feeling though.

        My take on this study is that it may suggest that various internet "social" activities are just the latest coping mechanisms for depression that fall under the category of superficial and ineffectual attempts to reach out to others.

    • Pintrest. Twitter. All the things media wants them to do and considers profitable territory for advertisement and corporate promotions.

    • by tomhath (637240) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @06:42PM (#40081561)

      Researchers believe this haphazard use of the internet is a result of students having difficulty concentrating, which is a common trait associated with depression.

      Non-depressed people use those things too, but they tend to complete one task before moving on to the next rather than randomly jumping between them. They're finding a correlation between ADD and depression, which is well known.

  • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @05:02PM (#40080537) Homepage Journal
    "Depressed people skate on the other side of the ice."
  • by Bigby (659157) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @05:03PM (#40080543)

    I read the title as "dressed" people. I thought, "well of course dressed people surf the Internet differently than naked people".

  • by RalphWigum (519738) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @05:04PM (#40080555) Homepage
    Yay! Another correlation != causality study. Everyone jump to conclusions in 5...4...3...2...1
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm tired of people trotting out "correlation doesn't equal causation" to dismiss practically every study they don't like. Correlation doesn't necessarily prove causation, but the point is that it's often a strong indicator of a link. For example, the random, chaotic pattern of chatting behavior exhibited by the depressed students makes sense because one sign of depression is an inability to focus and remain undistracted.

  • "Depressed students used file-sharing programs, like torrents or online sharing sites" Note the absence of Usenet in this list. Sounds like the bandwidth cap is the leading cause of these depressions.
  • by MLCT (1148749) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @05:13PM (#40080659)
    There are so many variables here that it isn't funny. I frequently cringe when I see social science "foo linked to bar says study" headlines. There are so many ways to cut the data, so many internal biases that influence what is published, and almost always not enough evidence to definitively prove a correlation-causation linkage (small samples sizes, poorly defined data, poorly handled statistics etc.).

    Gary Gutting (Philosopher, Notre Dame) had a blog piece in the NYT last week that tackles this head on:

    How Reliable Are the Social Sciences? [nytimes.com]
  • by Xeno man (1614779) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @05:14PM (#40080663)
    So basically, people that are depressed look for things that might make them feel better such as entertainment from videos, movies and games. They send more emails to reach out to other people trying to connect in an attempt to feel better. If you think about it, should anyone really be surprised?
    • So basically, people that are depressed look for things that might make them feel better such as entertainment from videos, movies and games. They send more emails to reach out to other people trying to connect in an attempt to feel better. If you think about it, should anyone really be surprised?

      We might be interested to know whether these things actually make people feel better, as opposed to offering no help or making things worse.

      However, if these things actually made people happy, why would they be more common among the depressed? It seems to me that the correlation would be reversed.

      • I've been there, and in my case computer games were both the solution and the problem. In the short term they give you the endorphin boost you need to feel that you're living an interesting life, and hence stop you topping yourself, but over the medium to long term your original problem - that your life feels like a thankless, meaningless struggle - is still there and getting worse as you're avoiding your problems with all this displacement activity, not taking steps to solve them.

        Self-medicating with t

      • by Xeno man (1614779)
        Viewing the material can probably be equated to taking drugs or alcohol. Watching stuff makes you feel better, while your watching it. Once the material is over, the effect wares off and your back to where you. Depresses people are looking for a hit of happiness and download more material looking for more hits. While not fixing the underlying problems of depression, at bare minimum the extra browsing is a coping mechanism and possibly an identifying tool.
  • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @05:17PM (#40080699)
    The internet is MAKING the people depressed!
  • I wonder if depression is correlated with an entitlement mentality and ego-centrism. It is definitely correlated with a lack of exercise.

    • by Maow (620678)

      I wonder if depression is correlated with an entitlement mentality and ego-centrism.

      No and no. Likely the opposite of those is true.

      It is definitely correlated with a lack of exercise.

      Agreed.

  • Okay so what were the non-depressed people doing? I wasn't aware there was anything else to do on the Internet.

  • Sounds more like they've misdiagnosed those with depression; they sound like they're bored -- not depressed

  • the study is rather limited since 216 students is a small sample. And how did they get the students? If it was voluntarily, then the sample was already biased from the beginning. They could not have monitored the internet use of a random sample without their consent without violating basic guidelines for using human subjects in research. The later rather severe in academic setups. It must have been rather difficult to get these students also because who would agree to have all their online activities moni
    • It must have been rather difficult to get these students also because who would agree to have all their online activities monitored and analyzed.

      Um, practically anyone who uses the internet without jumping through hoops to try to avoid it?

  • by wrencherd (865833) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @06:08PM (#40081189)
    The bulk of TFA seems to be making the point that the more depressed respondents used the internet more, though in the same ways, as their less depressed cohorts.

    That's neither surprising nor a bad thing since the main thing that people do with the internet is communicate with others. The primary problem for depressed people is feeling that they are alone and isolated in their suffering.

    In that respect, particularly for college students who may be away from their homes for the first time in their lives, the internet is probably a good (and ready) palliative.
  • by EQ (28372) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @06:08PM (#40081193) Homepage Journal

    I use BT, chat, email, FG and even play WoW and flash games. So I guess I'm in trouble:

    Come see the symptoms inherent in the system, Help Help, I'm being depressed!

  • Avoiding People (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @06:11PM (#40081235)

    It's called escapism. I watched vidoes and played games so I wouldn't have to think of my miserable life. Of course doing those things didn't help fix my problems, so I always ended up feeling worse sometime afterwards. But I didn't have any motivation to get any real work done. I don't do online chats and don't have many (if any) friends to send emails to (not that I would have anything to say), but I prefer online communications compared with face to face. It's a lot easier to write a response than it is to stand next to someone and try to completely hide your depression. People don't like being around other depressed people; it's depressing.

    Maintaining face is extermely difficult when you're really depressed. Happy people make you want to cry because you're never that happy and can't ever get there. You also haven't acoomplished anything (you sat around for 3-4 hours being too depressed to do anything), so when people ask you "what's up" you have no answer. There's only so many ways to sound busy.

  • If depressed people did more file-sharing programs, torrents, online sharing sites, chatting more, email, online video viewing, and game playing...what did the non depressed people do? What's LEFT?

  • For a second there, I thought the title was "Depressed People Surf the Web Diffidently," whereupon I thought, "Of course."

    Then I read it again....

  • advertising? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Eponymous Hero (2090636) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @06:13PM (#40081265)
    http://www.alternet.org/health/68043 [alternet.org]

    it's an advertiser's job to make you unhappy. if you are content with what you have, and only wish to buy things you need, a lot of worthless junk would never get sold. think about how your (imaginary?) girlfriend/wife goes shopping to make herself feel better. materialism is condemned by just about every religion that preaches happiness through the "denial of the crystalline" -- to quote a Meshuggah song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IiP-Vdx_F8). advertisers want to create depression in you because it's proven to drive sales. you spend to fill the void, and the void is created by attachment to status and the expensive crap required to get it. all of this was true for tv, and now it's our interactive tv, the internet.

    http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/consumerism-and-its-antisocial-effects-can-be-turned-onor-off.html [psychologicalscience.org]
    • by Maow (620678)

      it's an advertiser's job to make you unhappy. if you are content with what you have, and only wish to buy things you need, a lot of worthless junk would never get sold.

      Yeah, but as an utter non-consumer with virtually zero desire to buy stuff (even when I really ought to buy stuff, like decent clothes - I'm probably an embarrassment to my non-imaginary girlfriend), it doesn't mean one won't get depressed. Unfortunately.

      PS Fucking hell & god damn it.

  • ...The grand converse fallacy, where people try to conclude from this that if depressed Internet users do X, Y, and Z, then if someone is doing X, Y, and Z, it's an indication that they're depressed and in need of "help."

  • People that are extremely bored and that in all likelihood would like to no have to endure 1, 2 or 3 more years of boring lectures that aren't -in many cases- in touch with reality (spin intended) use their computers to:

    - Have distracting hobbies such as collecting stuff (Used file-sharing programs)
    - Chat with people that have nothing to do with their field of study
    - Communicate with friends and relatives unrelated to studies.
    - Role play and live more exciting live (Online video viewing and game playing)
    - Entertain themselves with video

    I can relate to them. I felt that way during part of my time at university (5 full years non-stop, about 180 lectures per month and 700 books later, I really really felt like escaping some "nights").

    My advise is, if you are in that situation, know it's temporary. I can say that the "stay hungry, stay poor, my friends" from Steve Jobs isn't bullshit. It really means do what you like...once you enter the "security road to nowhere" it's very difficult to change. I had the luck of going for adventure to some other country, and that was one of the most rewarding decisions I ever made. Bake a backup plan, and then go for Plan A...trust your luck more than you trust your security (but always have boring Plan B ready).

  • Depressed students tended to use the internet in much different ways than their non-depressed classmates. Depressed students used file-sharing programs, like torrents or online sharing sites, more than non-depressed students (PDF). Depressed students also chatted more and sent more emails out. Online video viewing and game playing were also more popular for depressed students."

    I mean Jesus, what else is there?

  • Seriously ... throw in porn and I might as well slash my wrists now!

"Life, loathe it or ignore it, you can't like it." -- Marvin the paranoid android

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