Feeling depressed? Blame it in part on your modern life

As I sit here typing this, I am growing increasingly depressed. I long for physical activity and the feel of a fresh breeze on my cheek. Instead I am sedentarily positioned in a deserted corner of an office under artificial lights with my face shoved up to a computer monitor.

The downward spiral I experience each day as I sit all day at my desk tweeting, facebooking, surfing the net, (and of course doing my writing job), isn’t just in my imagination.

In a recent article in Newsweek, Dr. Andrew Weil, author of the book Spontaneous Happiness, explains that those who are living in industrialized nations in this Internet age are actually at higher risk for depression than those in poorer, less modern environments. He says we are experiencing a “nature-defecit,” and that as society immerses itself more and more in technology and other socially isolating activities, we are creating a fertile ground for depression.

When you think about it, even supposed “social” networking is many ways a form of social isolation. Sending tweets and commenting on Facebook posts is by no means as stimulating as actually going out and spending real time with a person.

The brains and bodies of humans — who evolved to thrive in nature and bond with others — are just not equipped for 21st Century life, says Weil.

More and more of us are sedentary, spending most of our time indoors. We eat industrial food much altered from its natural sources … We are deluged by an unprecedented overload of information and stimulation in this age of the Internet, email, mobile phones, and multimedia, all of which favor social isolation and certainly affect our emotional (and physical) health. Behaviors strongly associated with depression—reduced physical activity and human contact, overconsumption of processed food, seeking endless distraction—are the very behaviors that more and more people now can do, are even forced to do by the nature of their sedentary, indoor jobs.

To create a better balance, Dr. Weil recommends: “Increasing aerobic exercise, improving sleep, spending more time in the sun, eating more fish to boost intake of omega-3 fatty acids, socializing more, and not dwelling on negative thoughts.”

I for one am determined to try his suggestions (and here are a few of my own). But since I have no choice to be stuck in front of a computer for the next 8 hours, I think I’ll start small, by setting a photo of a sunny beach as my desktop wallpaper. If that doesn’t work, I’m totally taking a nap.

More on the topic:
Log Off. Reboot: A break from modern technology is good for your health

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Our virtual life does not reflect real life

A Facebook friend of mine, also a former colleague, posted this comment today:

Ways in which FB is not like real life: You can like everything, you can’t dislike anything, and you can’t like anything (or anyone) more than once.

This status update didn’t get much of a response; some of her updates get dozens of comments and likes. But it inspired me to think deeper about this virtual life we have created on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, YouTube…and the list goes on and on and on.

I sometimes get so sucked into my computer, that is, my own virtual reality, that I  neglect what is happening beyond my screen and outside of my online networks. Certainly I know the weather in San Diego is beautiful because my Facebook friends who live there told me so. I also know a friend who just had a baby in San Francisco is looking for recommendations on how to get her baby on a good sleep schedule.

But what is going on with my neighbor? Is it actually sunny and warm outside of my house?

It’s not that I don’t participate in the outside world of real life, but sometimes the virtual world is just so much more accessible and interesting. But it is also limiting.

There is nothing more fulfilling than having a wonderful conversation with a friend who is actually sitting across from you, moving her lips and talking. Maybe it involves sipping on tea that I steeped in my own kitchen. There’s no way I could get the satisfaction of watching my kids play with each other in harmony while staring at my computer screen.

Some things in real life are invaluable. But still, I wouldn’t trade the informative network I’ve got on Twitter, or the ability to sort of keep in touch with my myriad friends and foes on Facebook. And sometimes, too, I get looped into a YouTube feed that is inspiring or funny.

What I’m saying is it’s great to have both, and the virtual world and the real world have their own rules and quirks. Maybe I can’t unlike something on Facebook, but I can unfollow someone on Twitter and never hear from them again. It’s not so easy to do that with a pesky neighbor.

Basket case: Blogger seeks streamlined social media

I tend to be very OCD when it comes to neatness and organization. I recently decided to forgo elegant stainless steel appliances for shiny black because I knew the high likelihood of fingerprints on the stainless steel would most certainly push me over the edge.

Courtesy theludlowgroupblog.com

My house decor also incorporates quite a few decorative baskets in every room. I use them for the inevitable extraneous objects that seem to crop up: keys, shoes, bills, Mr. Potato Head ears … Unfortunately, these baskets seem to fill up faster than I can file things away. So I end up adding more baskets (This unintentionally sends a signal to the family to create more clutter. It’s a tangled web).

Yet somehow it works. I think I just feel better knowing that the potential energy said clutter is contained within some sort of system.

So what does this have to do with social media? For the purposes of this blog, let’s think of each of these clutter containing baskets as social media/networking-related sites: Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc.

Back in the day, I had just one social media basket, Myspace. I was content and satisfied. My photos were posted there. My blogs were written there. My friends were added there. Heck, I announced the arrival of my first born son there. Life was good.

Then it seemed the world defected to Facebook and I was lured there as well. Suddenly I wasn’t able to put all my eggs in one basket anymore. Photos were posted in two places. My networks were growing like weeds. Commenting became a challenge … and my MySpace Top 10 Friends List long neglected. Eventually, like most people, I let go of my Myspace account. Life was balanced again.

Then came Twitter. And Tumblr. And for half a second, Google Buzz. G+. Linked In. CafeMom. Hub Pages. WordPress. Blogger. Loopt. Blogged. Networked Blogs. Technorati. The list goes on and on. Perhaps these aren’t all traditional social networking sites, but each requires a certain level of social interaction, content posting, and engagement from its user. Meanwhile, even those companies and websites which aren’t social media driven are finding ways to integrate social media into their interface.

For a time, I could just unplug. Put the computer away.

Enter smartphone. Now it’s easy to be engaged 24 hours a day, on the go, in bed, and dare I say, at work…

Too many baskets. Too many eggs. I’m pretty sure we’re all about to crack.

As for me, I think it’s time to do a major social media streamlining. Get rid of the extra clutter. Maybe take up a new hobby. Maybe basket weaving.

From Friendster to Google+, a social media evolution

On this blog we discuss our relationship with social media, trends we’re seeing online and personal musings on how it affects our lives. We’ve considered “Breaking up with Facebook” and we’ve chronicled how pointless Google+ seems to be at this point. We’ve detailed the merits and pitfalls of Twitter.

But during a recent discussion I realized we had not explored the evolution of social media as it applies to our experiences.

The Evolution of Social Media / via Mashable

My first foray into social media was at a friend’s request that I join Friendster. Remember that skeleton? This particular friend was a techie–the IT guy of our newspaper. I trusted his media habits, so got on Friendster and immediately sent invitations to all my friends. Few of them joined, and I was miffed. I continued to encourage people to join, thinking this would be a cool way to stay in touch with my far-flung friends and acquaintances.

In the end, only a handful of my friends connected with me on the site, and I quickly lost interest. Yet, in the middle of my friend-prodding, one friend living in Los Angeles asked me to join MySpace. Obviously, I don’t drag my feet when it comes to linking up with old friends, so I obliged. I didn’t do much with my profile and after feeling like the Friendster scenario was losing steam I pushed these networks aside and instead got tied up with instant messaging.

Then, in 2007  when I started graduate school, I was introduced to Facebook. Surrounded by people in their early 20s (I was in my early 30s) at a university that had been one of the first to have Facebook access, I was impressed by this site and the attentiveness shown to it by my new peers. What is this “Wall?” I wondered. What is with all these photos? And how can someone really have 700 friends? True story.

Still soured by my Friendster experience, I ignored invitations to join Facebook from dozens of friends. But, in the spring of 2009 I caved. My sister in law in Hawaii said it would be a good way to keep in touch. I joined Facebook and much to my surprise, could not pry myself away.

Even now, two-and-a-half years later, I check my Facebook account every morning sometime before or after I check my two email accounts and Twitter stream. I don’t spend quite as much time lingering on the site as I once did, but it’s a regular part of my day. I turn to Facebook for updates on 400+ of my friends from junior high to grad school and beyond. It’s an interesting–albeit not complete–way to stay in touch. I once thought it would completely negate the need for my 20-year high school reunion. We shall see.

Now there is Google+. I was not one of the lucky few who were given early access to the new site, so I had to wait with the rest of the masses. When I did join, I found that few of my friends were there. It’s been about three weeks now and I have about 20 friends in my circles. Ninety percent of them are also on Facebook.

Needless to say, I don’t check my Google+ account very often. Maybe once every two days. There was so much hype about it when it launched that I believed it would outdo Facebook. I was curious to see how it could one-up Mark Zuckerberg’s behemoth. Yet, it seems as if Facebook continues to one-up Google+.

Perhaps Google+ is just an expression of Google wanting to cover all its bases–that is have its hand in every online pot–as it turns to the cloud. It is an information collector and agregator. That is not to say that Facebook is not an information collector–that is precisely its aim. But Facebook is capable of keeping the masses engaged. Facebook is where we turn when we want to see what’s going on. Facebook is the news in our lives. Facebook still reigns king of the social media world.

But like all kings, their reign eventually ends. For Friendster, the site was bought out in 2009 and now Friendster.com is an online gaming site. It purged all its photos and information it collected from its users and gave up on the social media game.

MySpace has similarly felt a collective brush-off since the rise of Facebook, and it seems to have reinvented itself as an entertainment-sharing site where people can listen to music all they want. It was sold this summer. My last adventure in the MySpace world reminded me why I don’t check my account–it had been about two years. It’s dead space.

So the question remains, can Facebook survive the ephemeral world of being at top of the social media food chain?

Judging by Facebook’s response to Google+ with its launch of a major redesign and the timeline feature, it seems as if Facebook is not going to take any challenge lightly. If it can continue to be innovative and give people what they want before they know they want it, it seems Facebook can evolve with the times and hold its reign.

Excuse me now, I need to check my Facebook page. I believe it’s my move on Lexulous.

Who’s on Google+?