“A Momentary Spark of Pleasure” Multitasking and Depression

English: www,domain,internet,web,net

Have you ever heard of anhedonia? It comes from the Greek “a-” (without) “hedone” (pleasure, delight), hence the “loss of the capacity to experience pleasure.” One way to self-medicate anhedonia is to frantically hunt the Internet for new information (what popular culture calls FOMO – Fear of Missing Out).

A recent  research project has linked multi-tasking with anhedonia, which is a symptom of depression. A journal article summarizes the research, and although the article’s title makes for a good sleeping pill “Associating Depressive Symptoms in College Students with Internet Usage Using Real Internet Data”, its worth noting that psychologists consider excessive Internet multi-tasking a possible sign of depression:

Frequent switching may reflect an attempt to elevate feelings in the face of Anhedonia, when there is desperation to find something – an interesting article, an e-mail, a pleasing video, etc., to derive a momentary spark of pleasure and elevate mood.”

This reminds me of Nicholas Carr‘s book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. He argues that the medium has to affect how the tool is used, and the distinctive thing about the Internet’s medium is speed!

On the Web, there is no such thing as leisurely browsing. We want to gather as much information as quickly as our eyes and fingers can move.” (page 136)

Since our habits signify what we desire most, its important to consider what our Internet usage tells us about our desires. The following four questions may help you reflect on the way the Internet informs your desires. These come from Phil Monroe’s blog called “Musings of a Christian Psychologist“:

  • What are we doing on-line…really?
  • What do our habits say about what we are looking for, desiring, etc.?
  • What are we avoiding while we are on-line?
  • What are we trying to fill?

Monroe answers this way: “I can tell you that my usage, at times, tells me I am not wanting to engage some bit of work that I have on my plate. Far better to check email than to write a difficult section of an upcoming lecture. Far better to read an important blog than to go talk to my kids about something that I’ve been avoiding. Or…so it seems at the moment.”

What about you? What should you be doing besides reading this important blog?

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