Is there any connection between Internet Usage and Depression?
There is absolutely zero percent of you who are reading this article without the help of the internet. Since its introduction back in 1983, the internet has become an essential part of all of our lives, so much so that it could be called “the fifth basic need”. It revolutionalized so many aspects of human life and behavior, changed the way we approach communication, and enabled so many possibilities for our technological evolutions. But all good things have their own shadows. The growing popularity of the internet and the increasing rate of depression are somehow creeping up at the same pace, and the experts can’t help but wonder how big of a correlation the internet has with depression. Let’s go through different aspects of this and see for ourselves if there is any connection between these two.
So, what is depression?
Honestly, I believe everyone is quite familiar with what depression is since there are so many cases on the news about the impact of depression on famous people. So I wouldn’t think this is the kind of question anyone would ask in 2022, actually (LOL). But anyway, depression is a relatively common mental illness that originates from different sources and has different symptoms depending on person to person. The American Psychiatric Association has listed mild to severe symptoms which include:
- Feeling sad
- Loss of passion in activities that one once enjoyed
- Gain or lose weight (unrelated to dieting)
- Fatigue, loss of energy
- Slowed movements or speech and increase in “purposeless” activities (like pacing, handwringing, etc.)
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty talking, concentrating, or making decisions
- Suicidal thoughts
Depression does not care who you are whether you are young or old. In any given year, one in 15 adults has depression. And in a lifetime, an estimated one in six people will experience depression at least once. Depression can affect you at any time, but on average, depression first appears during the late teen period to mid-20s, and a surprising degree of heritability with a whopping 40% chance of occurrence when first-degree relatives like parents or children have depression.
And you are saying this connects to internet use? How?
Right. Let me explain. There’s this research about the correlation of depression with internet use and body image in Korean adolescents that was being conducted from the department of pediatrics, Korea University College of Medicine. They analyzed the risk factors of depression among 920 students in Seoul back in July 2008 through the use of a self-report questionnaire. And the result was not far from what we expected. The adolescents in Seoul’s depression rate was 13.8% and will increase progressively with age. The amount of internet use was, in fact, correlates to the incidence of depression. The more time spent online, the more frequent the depression is. The research talked about how internet dependence leads to an increase in depressive symptoms, and those symptoms lead right back to more internet dependency, resulting in a vicious cycle of sadness and more internet usage. Another theory that the researchers think might be the case is that depressed people may lack social skills and a tendency towards isolation, which increases the likelihood of internet dependency, since, well…, you don’t have to meet anyone face-to-face online.
Let me repeat this again. This research was being conducted back in 2008 when the internet wasn’t even half as popular as it is today. What the internet back then brought with it was just the fact that you can be haunted by emails on your mobile phone, and maybe some old video games that may attract only a handful of people. The internet today is a whole new can of beans. Everyone is connected online through different social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, or Discord. Even though we are more connected than ever, we are also more apart than ever at the same time. Contradictory, I know. Let me explain what’s going on.
Problems with the Internet
1) Fear of missing out
This is one of the more recent terms that was being brought up frequently after the introduction of Snapchat and Instagram. The users now have a way to share the moment of their life through a few-second clip or post that will disappear after 24 hours. This sounds pretty harmless, right? I mean how is this any different than what we already have on Facebook where we can post things and those posts even stay up forever. Well, the 24 hours time period in which the posts stay up is what makes it different. There’s way less commitment to what you wanna post now since it’s not going to stay on your profile forever, meaning you can easily post whatever you want and as frequently as you wish without any commitment. This lets people share what they are doing with their lives more which could lead to a “fear of missing out” for other users, especially when there’s a trend going on where everyone’s doing the same thing. Fear of missing out is exactly what the name suggests, you have a fear of missing out on what others are doing. You might think that maybe you’re not living your life properly, so you’re missing out on whatever these people are doing. If you think about it, it could just originate from different lifestyles. But you might still think that you are missing something in your life, and you might not be accepted by others.
2) Your self-preception
Again, the ease of access makes it so that people can just post whatever they wanna post. It’s not about the post, actually, but it’s what comes after it that could be a little problematic. After posting, you will receive likes and comments from your followers, which kinda is a “reward” system the platform provides as an incentive for you to keep posting and using their platform. The amount of likes is key here. Users might perceive that they are not as popular or not as good-looking as the others who received more like numbers and possibly start to look down on themselves. Everyone is beautiful in their own way, and no numbers online can measure any of that. Don’t let that define who you are!
3) News travels way too quickly
The speed of the internet is a double-edged sword. News travels around faster than ever, but the stress that comes with it sometimes is also really immense. People are now bombarded with news events around the world 24/7. Good news or bad news, the overall amount of information one takes in each day is exponentially higher than those days without the internet. Seeing the increasing number of covid cases each day, the Russian war, and all sorts of other stuff can be tough for someone who’s trying to get by and relax from their long day of work.
There are many other reasons that we could bring up for discussions, but it would take a little too much of your precious time. You can learn more about this through many online articles like this one from the University of Michigan’s psychology website.
Depression is a really serious issue for people in the modern days, especially now. The pandemic makes us extremely disconnected. Meeting your friend is hard, connecting to your loved ones becomes more difficult, everything is awful in these days and age. If you see your friends, family, or companion having a difficult time with their mental state, please help them out. There’s no better way to help people with depression than to be their friend and tell them that you are there to help, always has been, and will never go anywhere. The depressed saying “I don’t need your help” shouldn’t be an obstacle, and “he didn’t want any help” shouldn’t be the reason for you not to step in and save them from their thoughts. We all have seen how dangerous depression can be for the one suffering from the illness, so please, help them out.
And if you think you are suffering from depression yourself, please don’t EVER think that you are alone. You are not on your own. Your friends and family will always be there to help, and there are also therapists that you can go seek help from. Please don’t think that you are weak for going to see the therapist. It is necessary for you and you will thank yourself every day for making that brave decision. Trust me, I’ve been there. I was actually quite depressed back in 2019 when I was studying in the Engineering faculty. The environment was really competitive and I was going through some problems with my relationships at the very same time. It felt like everything crashed onto you at the same time and there doesn’t seem to be any way out. Had I not decided to go to the therapist that day, I would never want to imagine how I will be now. You can start with calling your family and friends, or some local hotlines (for Thai people, 1323 is one of them) before going to the therapists. In fact, you can contact me through my email if you want. I’ll try my absolute best to help!