Friday, June 22, 2012

How depressives surf the web.

A brief piece with the title of this post recently appeared in the NYTimes, and is an example of annoying phenomenon: advertising by advance announcement in popular media with reference made to a "forthcoming" article. The points raised are interesting enough that the reader deserves access to what might be more thorough analysis and discussion. I'm thinking the correlations indicated might be quite spurious. For what it is worth, in a study involving the usual gaggle of undergraduate volunteers, the authors claim to have:
...identified several features of Internet usage that correlated with depression. In other words, we found a trend: in general, the more a participant’s score on the survey indicated depression, the more his or her Internet usage included these (rather technical-sounding) features — for instance, “p2p packets,” which indicate high levels of sharing files (like movies and music).
Our second major discovery was that there were patterns of Internet usage that were statistically high among participants with depressive symptoms compared with those without symptoms. That is, we found indicators: styles of Internet behavior that were signs of depressive people. For example, participants with depressive symptoms tended to engage in very high e-mail usage. This perhaps was to be expected: research by the psychologists Janet Morahan-Martin and Phyllis Schumacher has shown that frequent checking of e-mail may relate to high levels of anxiety, which itself correlates with depressive symptoms.
Another example: the Internet usage of depressive people tended to exhibit high “flow duration entropy” — which often occurs when there is frequent switching among Internet applications like e-mail, chat rooms and games. This may indicate difficulty concentrating. This finding, too, is consistent with the psychological literature: according to the National Institute of Mental Health, difficulty concentrating is also a sign of depressive symptoms among students... OTHER characteristic features of “depressive” Internet behavior included increased amounts of video watching, gaming and chatting.

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