A series of surveys conducted amongst retirees between 2002 and 2008 found elderly men and women who used the Internet as a form of communication reported lower levels of depression than their non-Internet using peers.
Researchers were quick to point out, however, that the study indicated there was only a correlation between Internet communication and mood, not causation. It was conducted by analyzing surveys of adults over 50 who didn’t reside in nursing homes.
The results showed 16 percent of people who didn’t use the Internet reported suffering from depression while only nine percent of those who did stated the same.
The Internet Doesn’t Notice Your Age
The interconnectivity of the Internet isn’t just helping the elderly. Numerous campaigns have developed online to help younger teens and adults suffering from depression. The It Gets Better Project is one of the most well known and it works to connect LGBT and other bullied kids with those who’ve overcome depression and suicidal thoughts.
Tumblr also joined the fray with the Post It Forward program. The campaign encourages people who’ve gone through a mental illness or dealt with harmful social issues to share their story. In doing so they hope to help other people overcome their own battles.
Even teenagers are getting in on the act.
Recently, two young women won the Innovative App Challenge for developing an app that allows teens to express their thoughts on depression and loneliness in order to help combat suicide and school shootings. The app, Safe and Sound, now has the backing of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is shaping up to be an effective stress management tool against depression.
The Role of Social Media
Facebook often receives a bad rap for being a forum for “social comparison,” where users compare their own lives to the series of happy moments they see on other people’s profiles. This has been shown to lead to feelings of depression, jealousy and low self-esteem.
However, social media sites can also act as a forum for people to share their troubles and receive support. Facebook recently added new features allowing people to flag posts by friends that indicate suicidal or depressive thoughts. Facebook then reviews the post and sends a message letting the person know someone is worried and gives them information on how to get help.
Twitter also often acts as a rallying point for those who are bullied and suffering from depressive thoughts. Recently when “Supernatural” actor Jared Padalecki, who has spoken publicly about his battle with depression, tweeted that he needed support, fans and other users piled on the love. They accompanied their social love with the hashtag #AlwaysKeepFighting, a nod to the actor’s charity designed to help people suffering from mental illness.
One man is even creating a social network designed specifically to combat mental illness. The website, Panoply, uses clinically proven methods to help train people suffering with depression to transform the way they think.
Can It Work For You?
The Internet is messy and can be a playground for both the negative and positive aspects of humanity. The key to using it to fight against depression is to focus on the good the Internet can bring.
People with depression should focus on using the Internet as a form of communication for keeping in touch with the ones they love, as well as those who’ve gone through depression and have come out on top. Rather than focus on the negative aspects, like trolls in Yahoo! comment sections, using it to add positivity to your life may have a lasting effect.
The Internet will never be an all-in-one solution for beating depression, but there are plenty of indications it can help. Before unplugging completely look into some of the campaigns mentioned above and see if they can improve your mood. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts, please remember the Internet is no substitute for professional help.
Ben Kerns is a fan of all things related to technology and the Internet, especially when it comes to discovering new ways to further merge the two together. When he's not plugged in, he enjoys the great outdoors, healthy living, and singing off-tune to cheesy country songs.
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