CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Culture

Study: Time spent on Web linked to depression

Research shows a link between Web usage and depression. But does the Web make you depressed? Or do depressed people have nowhere else to go but the Web?

What do you do when you're miserable? Do you reach for a little absinthe and attempt to drown your sorrows in a sea of green? Do you go shopping and blow money you don't have on things you don't want? Or do you disappear into the web of tears known as the Web?

I ask this difficult question not merely because so many in the world are subsumed currently by the darkness of winter. You see, the hopeful harbingers at Sky News thrust forward a research study by psychologists at the University of Leeds suggesting that those who spend a lot of time on the Web are a lot more depressed than those who don't.

The University's Institute of Psychological Sciences talked to 1,319 people between the ages of 16 and 51. Catriona Morrison, leader of the research team, told Sky News, "There was a high correspondence between the amount of time spent on the Internet and levels of depression. If you look at how dependent people feel they are on the Internet, that is likely to correspond with how happy or sad they feel."

Are you the miserable spider in the heart of your Web experience? CC Photogirl 7

If this were true, might it not suggest that many employees at, for example, Google are clinically and terminally depressed? This doesn't seem likely, as they always seem quite a cheery bunch.

The question surely is, as Morrison readily admits, that her research cannot conclude whether, when you're down, you turn to the Web, or the Web has a unique talent for getting you down.

Perhaps it is a very vicious cycle: You feel down, so you go to the Web to see what is happening in the instant. There, you find news of disasters, tragedies, and Amy Winehouse--or you discover that your favorite film actor, singer, or TV star has another new boyfriend, girlfriend, or source of income. Unless you are the sort of person who is fond of enjoying others' misery, you are likely to be made miserable by either of these scenarios.

Surely, prolonged time spent on the Web cannot in itself make you miserable--unless, of course, once you count the hours, it merely reminds you that you don't have anything else to do.

Perhaps the only way to discover the truth in this matter is to shut down the Web for, say, eight hours every day and then test whether, in those eight hours, people miraculously cheer up.

That would be a fun experiment, would it not?