Does the internet depress you?
Did you see the report last week which appeared in various social media blogs and articles linking excessive internet use to depression?
Psychologists from Leeds University found what they said was “striking” evidence that some avid net users develop compulsive internet habits in which they replace real-life social interaction with online chat rooms and social networking sites.
“This study reinforces the public speculation that over-engaging in websites that serve to replace normal social function might be linked to psychological disorders like depression and addiction,” the study’s lead author, Catriona Morrison, wrote in the journal Psychopathology.
But it is not clear whether the internet causes depression or whether depressed people are drawn to it. “What is clear is that for a small subset of people, excessive use of the internet could be a warning signal for depressive tendencies.”
For me the key part of this study is in the sentence “some avid net users develop compulsive internet habits in which they replace real-life social interaction with online chat rooms and social networking sites.” This for me is at the real heart of things. One sign of depression is that very desire to hide away from real life social interaction, so I would suggest that it is not the internet causing the depression, but that these individuals are already depressed. In fact, I would go so far as to say maybe it’s a good thing they at least have some interaction, even if it is virtual.
However, I can also see how easy it is to slip into this situation of overly-communicating online. It is still a source of amazement to me how quickly online friendships can build and even more so how online chat forum participants can get so overwhelmingly caught up in online drama with people they hardly know! You see this second phenomenon a lot on Twitter.
This brings me now to another question. Should online friendships stay online or should they be brought into the “real world”? I am prompted to ask this question after a discussion I had with an online friend whom I met face to face for the first time recently. She mentioned that she had noticed a post on a blog which pointed with dismay to a “new blogger phenomenon – blogger meets”. One of the comments made after the post was “Isn’t part of the point of blogging that you can’t \ don’t \won’t meet in person? ” Well, I have to admit that this comment surprised me. Obviously you “meet” many people online and a lot of these you only meet once, maybe twice, but sometimes you really click with someone and find you have lots in common. So you start to read their blog regularly, learn more about them, maybe email them, talk to them on Facebook or Twitter. That has certainly been the case for me. And if you find that you live in the same locality or there is an opportunity to meet for a coffee, well wouldn’t the natural next step in your friendship be to do so?
I have met several bloggers now in “real life” – each one of whom, I have spent several months chatting online to. We got to know each other pretty well beforehand and I was excited to meet up with them all. The only time a real life encounter didn’t work out was with someone I met on Twitter and she turned out to be nothing like her Twitter persona. It was a good lesson to learn but hasn’t put me off.
Interestingly, with the exception of one, none of the bloggers I have met up with are breast cancer survivors, but they do all share the experience of loss in some way and are compassionate, empathetic and wise women. So Lily, Paula, Chari, Lorna and Jane, I am so glad we got to meet in real life and my life has been enriched by meeting you both on and off line. Here’s to many more tweet-ups!
And Debbie and Jody, although I haven’t met you in real life…yet! your friendship and support brings me great joy every day.
Yes I did indeed see this report last week and I absolutely agree with you – the nub of the issue is replacing real life interaction with the internet – you need to maintain your relationships in real life too!
Well I haven’t met any of my blogger friends in real life due to the logistical problem of the closest friends being in a different country, but I would absolutely love to meet up if I had the chance – of course bloggers should meet up in real life!
I haven’t met any bloggers in real life but I have built up a close friendship with one or two and we call each other on the telephone – i reckon that almost counts for a tweet-up 🙂
I couldn’t manage without my blogger friends – well that sounds a tad dramatic – but like you these friendships have enriched my life immeasurably
I have certainly found that it is easy to slip in that overcommunicating with strangers business real easy – like any addiction, awareness is the key – once I became aware, i rebalanced things in my life – but yes, it is easy to fall into the trap of internet addiction and then like any addiction, depression is sure to follow
Friendship is friendship – you are just as likely to form a friendship through blogging as meeting someone at a networking event. You follow the blogs you have the most in common way – so of course real life friendships can happen
I agree with what you’ve said in this post. I too have met up with one or two girls I met initially through blogging primarily because we have so much in common – it’s been a great bonus!
I have never met up with bloggers I follow and I don’t really get it I’m afraid..sounds a bit creepy to me
It’s a little like forming a friendship with a penpal and we all know stories of how these friendships can span lifetimes. I think it’s great!
It’s not creepy Wanda – where would you get that idea? Unless you are thinking of something completely different!!!
I agree with Jessie – I too think it’s like the modern version of penpals – I had one of those when I was a child and we are still friends 15 years later.
I think it’s wonderful when bloggers meet up in real life – done it myself and it’s been great craic
The report really doesn’t make clear whether the internet causes depression or whether depressed people are drawn to it, but like you I tend to think that it can perpetuate a downward spiral into depression and maybe the fact that these poor souls are communicating at all is a good thing. We need to harness the internet to help support mental illness.
It is very easy to get caught up in the online drama – I’ve see it happen on message boards and it can turn quite vicious!
Well, I am not sure what to make out of all this…
I think, I know, I’m depressed right now but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy when I first started using my Twitter account (that would be March last year, when the company I worked for went bankrupt and we all ended in the street without much warning or any expectations for another job).
Am I addicted? Probably, yes. I have a tendency to addictions in general (food, drinks, games…) so Twitter had to, naturally, become one of them.
Am I not interacting as I should in ‘real’ life? Last time I checked you were all real people (I miss the pornbots, though) but I have to admit that my offline friends possibly think I’m a bit more weird than I used to be since my habits regarding sleep, going out… have changed quite a bit (why did so many of you have to live overseas??)
And I wouldn’t change having met you for the best anti-depressant in the world…
Marie, you certainly got people thinking with this post.
I saw the report. I think the key for me is in this sentence ‘over-engaging in (fill in the blank, in this case websites) that serve to replace normal social function might be linked to psychological disorders like depression and addiction’
Having been online for about only a year, I have found I really enjoy the friendships which have developed. Online is just another avenue for friends but in no way replaces offline.
I’ve really enjoyed meeting people I’ve met online in person. Yourself very much included 🙂
Yes it is alarmingly easy to become addicted but as Chari above points out, if you have addictive tendancies, you will find something to become addicted to anyway. At least this way there is some interaction with “humans” going on.
Good post. I saw this report too but I like the way you teased out the issues here.
Where do I begin? Am I addicted to Twitter and Facebook? My 12 year old daughter would say YES! Do I wake up each morning and spend the first part of my day on these 2 social networking sites? YES. Do I search through my home page on FB or my @ and DM pages on Twitter looking for people who are talking to me or who I can talk to? YES. Do I sometimes waste time and get depressed as I stare at the screen waiting and hoping for some miracle to happen through cyberspace and change my life overnight? YES.
But let me tell you that my life has changed and little miracles are happening everyday there for me:)
I have ‘met’ some amazing people, mostly women. I hope to meet in person soon. It is somewhat depressing that these women live in Ireland, the Netherlands and Texas, far away from me. But it is also very comforting that I can find one of them almost any time of the day or night and reach out to them and they will answer.
Sometimes I feel I need to ‘walk away’ from the computer and plug into my family, friends, work, dog. Sometimes I feel drained by my interactions on the computer, or is it just the bright screen in my face and the typing on the keypad instead of speaking the words and listening? Real-life interactions are important but my online interactions have given me a level of support and encouragement I never could have imagined at a time when I didn’t even realize how much I needed it. What a gift! To meet these women in person is something I am so looking forward to and will be sure to make it happen soon!
Thank you so much Debbie for posting your comment. I “hear” you 🙂 Am also smiling at your daughter telling you that you are spending too much time on the internet :-)…shouldn’t that be the other way around???
I saw the article and am so glad you chose to write about this Marie!
The full potential of social media is realized when people decide to meet. It’s the sprinkles on the chocolate ice cream; the whipped cream on the pie. As far as I’m concerned my world has expanded for the better via social media. You, Debbie, Lynn Lane, Chari, Annemieke, Karen, Becky, Datta, MJ …..I could go on and on about how much you mean to me.
Another benefit is that I love information. Ever since I was diagnosed I have dreamed of pulling together a web site for all women with cancer. Social media — and loyal, loving encouragement from Marie, Deb, Chari, Karen and Annemieke especially — has helped get me on that path. My progress is slow but my vision becomes clearer each day. That is a blessing.
And on the downside: I can really get amped up, go sideways, get distracted, talk to people all day long and start flying, mentally. My thoughts ping. Ideas start bubbling like champagne….that’s fine to a point. I have a tendency to get addicted to just about anything so truly, I have to watch myself.
If I start getting rattled my questions to myself become: have I exercised today? am I getting my work done? have I walked the dog, etc. When you work from home, like both Steve and I do, it pays to be mindful of the hazards and your own vulnerability to them.
Great topic. Thanks for all the good thoughts —
I have to agree with my #Twisters. The internet brought me dear friends that I haven’t met in person (yet) with the exception of Karen and she was every bit as beautiful inside and out as I thought she was from “knowing” her on Twitter. I can’t wait to meet you, Debbie, Jody, Chari, Lynn, Erik, Scott, Matt, Mike, Jamie and others in person and I know that will be an amazing experience. My #Twisters and male Twitter friends have enriched my life in a way I wouldn’t have hold for possible! So no, the Internet doesn’t depress me, can’t wait to meet you! Annemieke
Great comments here – I particularly love Jody’s observation that “The full potential of social media is realized when people decide to meet. It’s the sprinkles on the chocolate ice cream; the whipped cream on the pie” 🙂
the one aspect i find depression about the internet and no one seems to have mentioned it here – is those nasty comments people leave on sites such as youtube, etc. It is particularly despicable and reading them makes me depressed and despair for the human race 😦
I didn’t comment on this post the first time I read it as I was the person that brought Marie’s attention to the other blog post and I was interested to see what other people thought.
Personally, and I think Jody and Suzanne put it so aptly that I am going to quote them “The full potential of social media is realized when people decide to meet. It’s the sprinkles on the chocolate ice cream; the whipped cream on the pie” 🙂
There is so much negatively re social media replacing real friendships that it is great to see social media not only creating real friendships but also fostering them when the friends meet in person.
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