By now, most of us know that Internet marketers and other third parties attempt to track our Internet usage to create a profile of our likes, interests, and other information that allows them to target certain advertisements at us. But researchers now reveal that our Internet usage may indicate more than just our interests; it may also be used to reveal our emotional state.
Researchers evaluated and monitored the Internet usage of 216 participating undergraduate college students from the Missouri University of Science and Technology. They filled out a questionnaire aimed at discovering their level of depression, and the university provided the researchers with the Internet usage data for the students taking part in the study.
“This didn’t mean snooping on what the students were looking at or whom they were e-mailing,” the researchers wrote in an article for the New York Times. “[I]t merely meant monitoring how they were using the Internet— information about traffic flow that the university customarily collects for troubleshooting network connections and such.”
The researchers note that previous research has shown frequently checking one’s e-mail may be associated with anxiety, and the researchers found that frequent e-mail usage was more prevalent among students found to be depressed based on their questionnaire.
It is also worth pointing out that the researchers pointed to higher levels of file sharing among depressed students, and speculate that trouble concentrating may lead depressed students to change from one application (e-mail, chat, etc.) to the other very frequently. Depressed students were also found to watch videos, play games, and chat more frequently.
The researchers hope to develop software that users may install that will monitor the way they use the Internet and inform them if they are displaying signs of depression.
Usenet has long been a hub for the technologically savvy, but it also features plenty of newsgroups in which social and medical subjects such as this are actively discussed. The research may also relates to Usenet—although Usenet was not mentioned in the research—in that one may speculate that patterns in which users access and use Usenet may also indicate their emotional state similar to the way in which the researchers found the students’ use of the Internet may indicate their emotional state.