Depression is already one of the great epidemics of the century begins. It is estimated that as you read these lines some 350 million people suffer from some type of mood disorder and, throughout his/her life, 20.8 percent of the population coexist with them.

For years, we know that there is a close relationship between the use of internet and depression (1998). During this time, we have not stopped to learn about the digital behavior. This has led us to the threshold of a revolution in the way we diagnose emotional disorders. A revolution posed endless ethical and human affairs. Therefore, the following entry of our modern bestiary of the digital world is depression.

Steam crystals

When broke down the door she was naked in the tub with closed eyes and warm water at chest height. There was tight forgotten in a corner; one heap of forks and tendrils; a comb and four or five dirty towels strewn around the sink. Cristina Bemellar tried to end their life an April Fair. “Javi, I know it sounds cliche: I was born there but I do not ‘born again’ that time was not the first time I was born…” Drink beer, cola light and yes, the camamero has put us backward.


Cristina has worked in various associations, but not anymore. She becomes obsessed with reaching beyond and is creating something new. “Understand me well, the work she did was incredible. However, it is not enough. It is not enough because I know that with the current approach we could never help myself.” I ask about the options you are working on and give me several: in all, just talking about the Internet.

“Any conversation about the future of depression just revolves around internet.”

It is not weird. Very early on, we discovered the very intense relationship between Internet use and depression but until a couple of years, we have not had much more than insights on the matter does.

I usually talk about Chellappan and Kotikalapudi that, in 2012, conducted an experiment at the University of Missouri. They selected 216 students to do two things: to assess their level of depression with a questionnaire and, with the help of service University computer, monitor their use of the Internet.

About a third of them showed signs of depression: the United States, it is estimated that between 10 and 40% of college students experience some form of the emotional disorder (in other countries, this figure is much lower, but mainly because of the peculiarities of our higher education system).

That third of students made greater use of the Internet much higher. It is, effectively using internet correlated with depression. In addition, not only that, they used the internet in a very concrete way, these patterns, Cristina tells me, is precisely the patterns are looking for.

How to surf the Internet when we are depressed

It is very interesting. We have found some (not many) things characteristics of depression: For example, as had also proposed Janet Morahan-Martin and Phyllis Schumacher in 2003, depressed people make a much greater use of mail than the rest.

Our emotions are not small figures that roam our head, but, above all, are ways to adapt to situations of daily life. There are times we have to be sad (following the death of a close friend, for example) and others, which have to be happy (after winning the lottery). Depression is a situation where our emotions stop to adapt to reality and that our strategies do not work to change this situation.

The same efforts to avoid sadness, fear and discomfort that prevent us related to things that bring us happiness, safety or welfare. The Internet seems a place made to avoid. Do they sound the ‘mute’, privacy options, the block, the ‘Busy’ in chat rooms or bubble filters? However, more and more imaginative to avoid anything that we do not like.

Therefore, along with the mail, we see a significant increase in the use of chat and social networks: forms of communication that require less ‘commitment’ and where it is easier to avoid what we do not like. That trend also avoiding the constant change we see in a web to another. Rapid incessant have changes, such as, avoiding any situation or content that may cause discomfort.

It has attempted to identify types or categories of ‘friendly depression’ pages but it is an almost impossible task. Although depression is a profoundly cultural phenomenon (Aichberger, Schouler-Ocak, Rapp, Hedwig-Krankenhaus and Hein, 2008), we are introduced to each personally and originates and is maintained by individual mechanisms.

What I have been shown, at least, it is that there is a tendency to prefer pages or services with a ‘high emotional content’ (Morahan-Martin and Schumacher, 2003).The argument seems a silly American movie (you know, ice cream and stracciatella romantic movie) but the fact is that consumption of video, music, and games going through the roof.

Why does this happen?

The short answer is that there is no real division between online and offline. For the long answer, I will have to take a short detour and return to Cristina.

It all started in Italy. She arrived in Lucca (Italy) Erasmus and during the first few weeks, everything was fine. One night she had a fight. Or rather, her roommates quarreled with her by asking them not to make too much noise that would not put the music so loud that people had not drunk at home all every day. “Things like that.” Her companions, who ‘had they gone to have fun and not to put up with crap, “invited her to leave the floor when she refused, everything got out of hand. They threatened, they tried to hit her, and started calling tared each time that saw her. “Never in my life have I been so scared. I stopped eating, I spent the day in the room, which put a lock, shaking, crying, fingers clubbed and only came when they slept or were not home.”

There are many things. 35 minutes recorded loudly, but the important thing is that jabbering some Italian, got out of there. A few months later, she returned to the US. Shee bought a cat and pretended everything was fine.

“She lived on the internet”. The story of Cristina in the months after returning from Italy coincides almost point by point with what we discussed. “I did not want to leave; I wanted nothing shrinking but the worst was not that, the worst thing was that I did not realize I had normalized… I felt like always, with a kind of fear or permanent anxiety, but as always “.

We use the internet else because we are depressed or are depressed because we use more internet? We do not have a closed answer they seem to be two things that feed. In some cases, it is the person with depression fleeing towards the internet; in others, we see that there are people predisposed to depression to abuse of the Internet makes it bad. It is not a univocal and closed relationship.

Because in reality, depression does not change how we are. Alternatively, on the Internet or in daily life. Possibly it’s the opposite and it is our personality that is a risk factor (Boyce, 1991). So theorists argue over whether a traumatic event click or depression is a slippery slope necessary.

“Depression does not change how we are or on the internet or in daily life. Possibly, it is the opposite.”

This worries me. In the conversation, I get the impression that the Internet can be the ultimate trap. In an environment designed to avoid, it is much harder to find (even by accident) things that make us feel good and escape the depressive feedback. The question is obvious should we put notices on web browsers like packs of snuff. Is it dangerous internet?

“I would say no, but, of course, I’m not neutral”. A long drag, the look as lost. “Actually, on second thought, it is true that in my case and in my experience these years, you are right. But I do not know”. Another drag. “I think it would miss an opportunity”.

“I think not use the internet in our favor would be to miss an opportunity”

The idea is suggestive. Let’s be honest, our browsing history (Choudhury, Gamon, Counts and Horvitz, 2015, Kroos et al. 2013 or Morahan-Martin and Schumacher in 2003) is the best tool for assessing depression we have today, depression and many other things. “For the first time, as you said, we can know who has depression. What can I say, I know that sounds selfish but I cannot stop thinking about me.”

Ethical boundaries health

I do not know if I have been able to pick up well but the last sentence was devastating. Now that we know, our way of using social media is a good predictor of who are “at risk of depression”; now that we know how we participate, the emotions transmitted or how we express ourselves (Choudhury, Gamon, Counts and Horvitz, 2015) can predict with great accuracy. Now we know that a simple mobile application preinstalled as standard (Glenn and Monteith, 2014) could change forever the way we face the mental illness, the question is what now?

“We have some very effective treatments for depression. Unfortunately, only half of people with depression receive the care they need. In fact, in many countries the figure is less than 10%, “says Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director of Mental Health, WHO. The ubiquity of new technologies puts us on a platter for the first time the ability to locate and treat depression scale or what it is the same, drastically reducing the 200 million people today suffer major depression and do not receive any treatment.

This is one of the issues that have occupied Cristina Bermallar, to what extent we can use private data generated by a person to advise medical treatments? In addition, even more, do not realize the large corporations that bad practices are turning away the possibility that this is real? Popper said, “human suffering is a direct moral call for help” and she is convinced that the philosopher takes reason. In this, I admit, Cristina is not neutral.

“Popper said that – human suffering is a direct moral call for help”

I cannot blame her. Out of curiosity, and although I admit that I should not, I ask for the attempted suicide. Not remember very well what happened nothing that day but gradually, over time, gathering pieces, comments and fragments, it has become an image of that bathroom. It was not easy, for a long time I was afraid to talk about it and when it was decided to do so, discovered that whoever had more fear of the rest were members of her family. Still, I realized that there was steam on the windows and mirrors, which had left the hanging heels towel rail or she is alive by causality (if her uncle had not gotten drunk as a Cuba to the house, had not repaired as soon the bathroom was occupied).

There is one thing he does not know, who has not managed to find out: her face, the look on her face. As clearly remember that afternoon, for many years he was obsessed whether happy or sad or confused in that bathtub. However, it has not gotten anyone tell you. Unaccountably you never know if anyone noticed her, if you like old psychoanalysts say something within them repressed, if they were silent out of fear or if they simply forgot. “And you know what? One day I realized it did not matter. What matters to me is that now I am happy.” In addition, the truth is that if you ever ask me that that was the expression on her face at this time, it would be clear: Cristina is happy; it makes sense that others want us to be.