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Media Medicine Science

Using Multiple Forms of Media At Once Correlates With Depression, Anxiety 174

pigrabbitbear writes "A new study (abstract) from Michigan State University shows that media multitasking exhibits a strong correlation with social anxiety and depression. Importantly, the direction of causality remains to be seen: Does multi-tasking make us more anxious and depressed? Or, as the study's leader, Mark W. Becker, an assistant professor of psychology, put it in an email, 'are depressed and anxious [people] turning toward media multitasking as a form of distraction?' The results of this study aren't conclusive in that regard, he says. But they're an important step. 'While that question will not be easy to answer, it is worth pursing because the practical implications of the findings depend on the causal direction,' he said."
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Using Multiple Forms of Media At Once Correlates With Depression, Anxiety

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 07, 2012 @03:36PM (#42218809)

    I strongly believe that the cause-effect relationship is that depressed/anxious people are using more social media. Why? It's an attempt to find something or someone worthwhile to alleviate the feelings of boredom and/or loneliness.

    Happy confident people will find some task or project or following and happily stick to it for a while. Depressed, lonely, scatterbrained people will turn to things like social media to try to find whatever it is that they don't know they're looking for.

    This is my belief..... of course, I might not know what I'm talking about.

  • by Zordak ( 123132 ) on Friday December 07, 2012 @03:39PM (#42218845) Homepage Journal
    IANAPsychologist, but intuitively I suspect that there's some feedback going on. A person is unhappy or lonely, so he seeks stimulus from multiple media inputs to try to fill the emptiness. It's gratifying for a while, but he quickly reaches diminishing returns and the endorphin rush peters out. Then he feels more depressed and lonely, so he seeks even more stimulus, and so on.
  • Makes sense to me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kid-noodle ( 669957 ) <> on Friday December 07, 2012 @03:41PM (#42218865) Homepage
    So, with the big flashing red caveat that this is entirely anecdotal and drawn from personal experience, I recall 'spamming' my senses with as many inputs as possible (lying in bed simultaneously listening to music, a film on, reading a book, eating seriously high fat/salt/sugar foodstuffs, etc.) quite a lot while I was in the deeper throes of reasonably severe depression. Retrospectively it seems like an attempt to blot out as much of reality as I could, and drown out the sound of my own thoughts.
    Funny things, brains.
  • by kid-noodle ( 669957 ) <> on Friday December 07, 2012 @03:59PM (#42219075) Homepage
    Hey, AC - go get help, get medicated and use the time you are medicated to do CBT (because the combination of the two has a good success rate), start jogging (because annoyingly, this too has a good success rate), eat more healthily (specific benefits of this are, I believe, a bit more contentious, but cooking properly is a great and positive activity irregardless), and while you're at it, identify what in your life and yourself you need to change to protect yourself from being depressed. Then use that to actually make the changes - this process took me about five years, but became progressively more worth it and easier. There's no magic bullet, it is hard work, and if you are susceptible to depression you probably need to keep at it in a small way forever.
    This doesn't work for everybody (some people do seem to just have bad chemistry), and really isn't easy, but it did for me.

    Perhaps the hardest bit is actually getting help in the first place, it took me months and the damage to my life was pretty extensive. Then one day I had a breakdown and sat weeping on my kitchen floor, because I couldn't cope with choosing between frozen pies for dinner and thought "Shit, I can't fix this by myself.". A mere three weeks later I'd actually gone to one of the several doctor's appointments I made.

    Anyway, I'm rambling. Don't spam your brain - do something about the sadness and pain.
  • by arielCo ( 995647 ) on Friday December 07, 2012 @04:05PM (#42219145)

    'What are you doing here?' he said to the drunkard whom he found sitting silently in front of a collection of bottles, some empty and some full.
    'I am drinking,' answered the drunkard lugubriously.
    'Why are you drinking?' the little prince asked.
    'In order to forget,' replied the drunkard.
    'To forget what?' enquired the little prince, who was already feeling sorry for him.
    'To forget that I am ashamed,' the drunkard confesed, hanging his head.
    'Ashamed of what?' asked the little prince who wanted to help him.
    'Ashamed of drinking!' concluded the drunkard, withdrawing into total silence.
    And the little prince went away, puzzled.
    'Grown-ups really are very, very odd,' he said to himself as he continued his journey.

    The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  • by kid-noodle ( 669957 ) <> on Friday December 07, 2012 @04:09PM (#42219203) Homepage
    Good for you!
    I was extremely leery of anti-depressants, but I suspect without them I would in fact be dead. They made me feel a whole other kind of awful (shakes, nausea, no libido, etc. ad nauseam), but did get me to a point where I could actively work on healing myself, and changing my life to protect me in future. I was able to cope without them after not so long - they should in almost all cases be used like a splint for the brain, and discarded when some semblance of normal neurochemistry is restored.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 07, 2012 @04:13PM (#42219249)

    Or perhaps it is because the smart people see how much of a depressing shithole the world is and the "ignorance is bliss" types don't?

    They live in their little closed-off worlds (facebook, quite literally), while the geeks all read about, well, shit like this, on our slashdot, instead of the new galactic empire agreements between 2 civilizations or how our new Titan-base got a new colony established, or to be more (sadly) realistic, the new processors from Intel or how much more Microsoft is suffering for decades of torture they forced on the industry.

  • by meetpi ( 2776369 ) on Friday December 07, 2012 @04:40PM (#42219577)

    Given that I can't afford to pay the publisher's ludicrous $51 for 24 hours access to this paper, I have to glean information about the study from the abstract and summaries.

    This study is, at best, a preliminary study. The researchers use a small sample size which they generalise to a large population (they sample 319 people) and they are not using a random sample (they used college undergrads, presumably self-selected). So, basically, what this tells us is that there is some correlation between certain kinds of media use behaviours with *possibly* depressed/anxious undergraduates at Michigan State. It is highly inaccurate statistically speaking to generalise these results to the general population. At best, this study might suggest that there is phenomena here that is worthy of further examination by a proper study.

    I'm not criticising the researchers: preliminary studies like this are the first step to getting funding for a more robust study, and they're not claiming anything earth-shattering or being sensationalist. But /. readers need to be aware that this is preliminary research, and does not mean what the headline suggests it does. A better headline would be something like "Preliminary research suggests there may be value in studying the relationship between multiple media use and depression"

    On a related note, I wish psychologists would stop using students as guinea pigs and then publishing papers on the results. We already know waaay too much about college undergraduates.

  • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Friday December 07, 2012 @04:45PM (#42219649)

    I don't really get what's unexpected about this. One of the well known effects of depression is a lack of interest in, well... anything. People who are depressed go out desperately searching for things that interest them, generally not finding it. Surely both having multiple tabs open, and trying to watch TV at the same time as reading shit on the internet is simply a symptom of that search for something to care about.

    That is, my hypothesis is that the causation is depression causes multitasking for information... Not multitasking with media causes depression.

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky