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May 21, 2012

Too Much Social Networking May Lead to Depression

By Nick Ruble, TMCnet Contributing Writer

When we think of depression, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t how much Facebook (News - Alert) chat and Tweeting that potentially depressed individuals are getting in.

Physical, real-world behavior and body language can tell a lot about the mental health of someone, but recent studies by Missouri’s University of Science and Technology yielded some surprising results: the amount of time people spend online can have an adverse effect on emotional wellbeing.

Research involved monitoring the Internet activity of 216 college students using Cisco’s (News - Alert) NetFlow technologies, ranking participants on an in-depth scale of certain patterns and habits.

Along with the Web monitoring was a survey based on depression markers. Students weren’t aware they were actually analyzed for Internet-related depression.

Students who scored high on the surveys for symptoms of depression generally exhibited habits of using online chatting services like Facebook, forums and e-mail constantly.

Researchers noted in the study that "difficulty concentrating or making clear decisions are indicators of depressive symptoms among students.”

It makes sense. People who sit on message boards for hours on end, constantly refreshing the page until they’ve received a response probably don’t have much of a connection to the outside world. Not to completely condemn the use of Web-based interaction, but frequent use of these services surely doesn’t do much for self-esteem.

Facebook was also a culprit here. Naturally, the one whose extent of communication is over a friend's Facebook wall is surely as unhealthy as the forum dweller. 

Whatever the case may be, the study goes to show that social isolation can do a decent amount of damage to one’s self-esteem and lead to depression. Findings also suggest mobile devices and computers could very well serve the purpose of diagnosing depression in the near future.

Edited by Braden Becker
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