Internet study links usage case with basket case

Jun 18, 2012 by Nancy Owano report
Partial map of the Internet based on the January 15, 2005 data found on opte.org. Each line is drawn between two nodes, representing two IP addresses. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

(Phys.org) -- You may have had to think about the Internet as a place where your Web usage puts a pricetag on your head and you are treated with ads assuming you are a likely customer. Now you need to think about the Internet as a place where your Web usage may land you on the books as mentally imbalanced. Sriram Chellappan and Raghavendra Kotikalapudi are two researchers who suggest the way one uses the Internet says something about the user’s mental well-being. Chellappan is an assistant professor of computer science at Missouri University of Science and Technology and Kotikalapudi is a computer science graduate.

They studied results from 216 undergraduates at Missouri S&T. The participants had to fill out a version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Scale questionnaire, used for measuring depression levels in the general population. The survey revealed that 30 percent of the participants met the criteria for depressive symptoms.

This, said the authors, is in line with national estimates that 10 to 40 percent of college students at some point experience such symptoms.

The school’s IT department gave researchers campus data on campus Internet usage data for the participants—information about traffic flow that the university customarily collects for troubleshooting network connections.

The authors say that this is one of the study strengths. “Earlier studies have looked into the relationship between Internet usage and depression, but ours is thought to be the first to use actual Internet data, collected anonymously and unobtrusively, rather than student-completed surveys about Internet usage, which are less reliable.”

The researchers applied that data for a statistical analysis of the depression scores and Internet usage data. They said they found that students who showed signs of depression tended to use the Internet differently from those who showed no symptoms of depression.

Several telling signs of depression, according to the study, could be correlated to features of Internet usage, as “p2p packets, which indicate high levels of sharing files (like movies and music)." Another sign they claimed was a sign of depressive people was very high e-mail usage. They shared the view with some psychologists that frequent checking of e-mail may relate to high levels of anxiety, which they said correlates with depressive symptoms. The authors also called out high “flow duration entropy, ” which they said often occurs when there is frequent switching among Internet applications such as e-mail, chat rooms and games.

Other characteristic features of “depressive” Internet behavior, according to the study, included increased amounts of video watching, gaming and chatting.

The authors suggest practical applications of their research could be a software application for use on home computers and mobile devices. It would monitor Internet usage and alert the person when usage patterns may signal depression symptoms.

They also suggested the app as a tool for parents to monitor mood-related Internet usage patterns of their children. A third suggestion is that the app be used at universities to notify counselors of students whose Internet usage patterns indicate depressive behavior.

A paper describing the research, "Associating in College Students with Internet Usage Using Real Internet Data," has been accepted for publication in a forthcoming issue of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine..

Explore further: US appeals court OKs evidence from no-warrant GPS

More information: web.mst.edu/~chellaps/papers/12_tech-soc_kcmwl.pdf

Related Stories

Internet usage patterns may signify depression

May 17, 2012

(Phys.org) -- In a new study analyzing Internet usage among college students, researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology have found that students who show signs of depression tend to use the Internet differently ...

Curbing depression in adults with epilepsy

Nov 03, 2010

A telephone- and Internet-delivered mindfulness-based depression treatment has been shown to significantly reduce depressive symptoms in adults with epilepsy, according to a study by Emory University public health researchers, ...

Recommended for you

California bans paparazzi drones

Oct 01, 2014

California on Tuesday approved a law which will prevent paparazzi from using drones to take photos of celebrities, among a series of measures aimed at tightening protection of privacy.

Remote healthcare for an aging population

Sep 30, 2014

An aging population and an increased incidence of debilitating illnesses such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease means there is pressure on technology to offer assistance with healthcare - monitoring and treatment. Research ...

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Aloken
not rated yet Jun 18, 2012
but ours is thought to be the first to use actual Internet data, collected anonymously and unobtrusively


If you can tell which student each piece of traffic belongs to, its no longer anonymous.
wiyosaya
5 / 5 (1) Jun 18, 2012
You're showing signs of depression, Dave
Howard_Vickridge
5 / 5 (1) Jun 18, 2012
Is it worth considering that those seeking out increased social contact - using more email & chat functions - may be self-treating to an extent by trying to reduce their social isolation? In other words, the internet usage symptoms being measured may not be negatively indicated for those suffering depression.
dtxx
not rated yet Jun 18, 2012
but ours is thought to be the first to use actual Internet data, collected anonymously and unobtrusively


If you can tell which student each piece of traffic belongs to, its no longer anonymous.


Until someone takes a discrete step to pair the information, it will be anonymous. Even then, anyone who has a publically accessible computer, say one in a dorm, has plausible deniability that they were the user generating the traffic.

Anyways, I typically take that discrete step because I have the joy of dealing with those whose traffic is problematic. This typically involves excessive bandwidth usage, but I also have to monitor for more subtle things that violate usage policies. Luckily I have the lattitude to tell people "knock the crap off" on a first offense without reporting them to a more severe authority, unless it is something truly egregious. Anything involving minors, for example, would go straight to the police as well as management.
alfie_null
not rated yet Jun 19, 2012
The authors suggest practical applications of their research could be a software application for use on home computers and mobile devices. It would monitor Internet usage and alert the person when usage patterns may signal depression symptoms.

I'm trying to imagine how this might be done without exacerbating the problem (or maybe initiating it in the case of a false positive).