I caught this story in the Washington Post, and I’ll be the first to admit it: I am not surprised by it. Not even a little bit.
Here’s the summary: Using apps and a questionnaire, researchers were able to link depression with phone use. In other words, the more time you spend using your phone, the more likely you are to be depressed.
This is, of course, not the first study to link depression with new technology. Multiple past studies have shown a connection between Facebook and depression, and as the article notes, this is likely the first of many studies which will deal with the connection between tech and mental health.
An important disclaimer: There is no causation statement here, only correlation, though I have my own theory about that. First, for those of you who know me in the real world, you likely know that I’ve been very public about my own battles with depression and anxiety:
In looking at my personal experiences with depression, I can tell you this much: When you are depressed, generally speaking, you want nothing to do with the world. You just want to withdraw into a fake, safe universe, where thinking is not required and personal interaction is limited. Of course, this is extremely dangerous and counter productive: When I’m depressed, I NEED to interact with people, distract myself with real work and make sure I don’t enter the fantasy land of my iPhone. However, combine these urges with the natural tendency of many in my generation to spend too much time with their phones, and you get a recipe for disaster.
Here’s my point: We are barely scratching the surface of the connection between technology, social networking and mental health. I was very excited to see this study, because it begins to shed some concrete answers on a real problem. I’ll also add that, for those of you who, like me, suffer from mental health problems, the temptation to spend too much time in the land of social networking or on a mobile device can get way, way too tempting and too distracting. It’s something that requires vigilance, and I hope studies like this can continue to shed the light on this problem. And, as our society gets more technologically integrated, I think that digital technology – and safety – area areas which will have to be increasingly addressed by our schools.