New research from the Missouri University of Science and Technology suggests that certain internet behaviors may indicate depression. Soon to be released in IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, the study tested participants for symptoms of depression and then monitored their internet use — not the content, but the manner in which they used the web. This data helped researchers identify behaviors (e.g. high levels of email use, file sharing, video watching, gaming, and chatting) that correlated to symptoms of depression. For example, depressive users switched between applications often, which the researchers say could "indicate difficulty concentrating."
Researchers Sriram Chellappan and Raghavendra Kotikalapudi explain in The New York Times that they hope to create software to alert users of these patterns, but caution that they shouldn't be used as a replacement for mental health professionals. Applications could include self-monitoring, parents gauging their children's mood via internet usage, or universities notifying counselors of students have may have depression based on their internet use. These monitoring programs would raise serious privacy concerns with how the information is used, who has access, and how such information is stored and protected.