Which of those activities, do you suppose, is the most depressing?
Surprisingly, it’s the period spent online. Studies suggest that people who spend a lot of time consuming social media may be more prone to moderate or severe depression. Likewise, there’s evidence that consuming too much news and spending too much time at a computer all seem connected to increased depression.
Some argue it isn’t that simple, that depression itself might prompt people to spend hours surfing the Web or posting on Facebook, rather than the other way around.
I’m not a psychologist, so I’m reluctant to speak definitively either way. But as someone who understands communication, I suspect that the “too much time online” crowd may be onto something.
The Internet is a boon to presenting and consuming information. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the vast array of other digital platforms offer a quick and easy way to connect with people at a certain level. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that having hundreds of Facebook friends makes us “social.” And make no mistake: As humans, we’re social creatures. We need to interact with other humans—hear their voices, see their expressions, read their body language, engage in real-time dialogue.
The isolated aspect of the online world—me and a computer screen—nurtures a misguided view of what the platform provides. It’s tempting to believe I stand upon a mountaintop, with the world spread out before us, eager to hear and embrace what I have to say. And then it becomes frighteningly easy to dismiss or even bash those who disagree.
That’s why I continue to believe that the most effective form of communication is done in person. Digital tools have a crucial role, but true two-way interaction involves people in the same space.
As communicators, our plans and strategies must encompass this broader view. Maybe then we’ll spend a lot less time in a blue, isolated, hyper-critical mindset and a lot more time relating to one another.