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LostInParadise's avatar

Does Fluther attract depressives?

Asked by LostInParadise (24489points) March 17th, 2009

I posed this question as part of an answer to another post and it was suggested that I ask the question of the community, so here it is. I suffer from depression, but that was not a factor, or at least I did not think it was, when I joined Fluther after my previous Q & A site went under. I wanted something similar to where I had been, which never talked of depression.

It could be that the number of questions regarding depression is simply a reflection of the prevalence of the disorder in the population in general. If that is so, then this would be good evidence of what many believe to be an epidemic.

Types of mental disorder vary in place and time and there is a theory that the major disorders at any place and time are as much a matter of sociology as they are of psychology. Depression is most prevalent in wealthy industrialized nations. It is virtually unknown among hunter-gatherers.

Why should this be? It is the opinion of some that our lifestyle may be a significant factor. We move from place to place and from job to job, and this mobility robs us of ties to family and community. There have been a spate of books, including the landmark work Bowling Alone, that discuss this phenomenon. And so we get depressed and turn to virtual communities for needed support.

Like many others here I have found Fluther to be addictive. I had been visiting several times a day. I have of late been cutting back, to restore a little more balance in my life and attempting to find more community in the real world.

Let me end on a note of optimism. I think we are at a breaking point. Our current lifestyle is economically unsustainable and I think that our current economic problems will yield significant changes. We will be living closer together and moving around less for sheerly economic reasons. And in the process we should get to know one another better and form a greater sense of community.

Feel free to comment on any of the various points raised here.

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38 Answers

aviona's avatar

;) haha nice you took my advice

steve6's avatar

Don’t fret, this is the real world.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Sometimes I get depressed when I don’t get the lurve I think I desurve (see how I did that? ain’t I pathetic?) on some of my (in my mind anyway) awesome answers. But hey, I guess the few times I pissed people off on here is coming back to haunt me, or maybe, just maybe, I am fucking paranoid.

I’ve noticed more depressive types here than in the real world, but then, people in the real world are a bit less open about stuff in general. It’s that whole stiff upper lip and put on a happy face line of bullshit that we use to make sure people in the real world keep their distance.

This is a nice community, and not too clicky, you know, with the dividing lines between ‘types’ that was so horrible in high school. Can you guess which click I was in when I went to school?

augustlan's avatar

I think EPZ is on to something there. There may be just as big a percentage of depressed people out there in the ‘real world’ as there are here… they just aren’t as vocal about it. Here, people feel much freer to share their most intimate thoughts and feelings. I see that as a positive thing, all the way around.

aviona's avatar

I think the anonymity helps.

ninjacolin's avatar

Maybe it simply attracts people who are expression-deprived. And I don’t mean that these people wouldn’t express themselves if given the chance in “real” life but rather that perhaps their “real” life situation simply doesn’t afford them the needed opportunities to express themselves as much as they would like.

This might include both depressed people (maybe who became depressed because of their communicative repression) as well as genuinely happy people (maybe who just don’t have the chance due to various forms of social isolation. (ie. just moved, only have friends who don’t get them well enough, live rurally, whatever the case may be))

Trustinglife's avatar

@lostinparadise, Thanks for posting this as a question – and your full explanation! Wonderful. I wholeheartedly agree with you that our world changes will inevitably push us closer together. What I wonder about is whether our current internet proclivities will continue to be indulge-able. Time will tell.

MacBean's avatar

I think Fluther attracts intelligent people. And I think intelligent people, being prone to looking at the world around them and thinking about it, are more likely to be or at least seem depressed.

augustlan's avatar

@MacBean I almost said that, too!
Will you marry me?

MacBean's avatar

@augustlan I will totally be your internet spouse. :D

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

Positive communities in general attract depressives.

nebule's avatar

I must say more but for now… i think that depression is a sign of intelligence and the struggle to grow oneself….discontentment is good to a degree… it tells us that we are not willing to settle for less than the best and to keep seeking that higher realm

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@ninjacolin, extra lurve for “expression deprived.”

To a certain extent, the anonymity enables us to let down our guards, and expose vulnerabilities that we couldn’t in ordinary space, and writing, rather than speaking, tends to foster further exposure, because you are able to fully explain yourself in ways that verbal communication mitigates.

augustlan's avatar

Yay! MacBean lurves me… how could I possibly be depressed? ;-)

Lupin's avatar

Yikes… I never thought I was depressed! I’m here for a few reasons:
1) It’s a fun diversion when I should be working on something important.
2) It’s a vehicle to trade advice with people that can string complete sentences together without a since TXT shortcut.
3) Some of the topics are about things I had not considered in a long time. Thanks!
4) In the time I’ve been here I’ve met some really nice people.
Seems like a win win situation to me. Enjoy!
@augustlan and @MacBean – Make sure you use virus protection. ;-)

Mr_M's avatar

I caution the moderators of this site when it comes to depressed people coming to Fluther for help and companionship. DON’T let it happen. It was allowed to happen on another site (which shall be nameless). Now you even have daily “questions” there where God “wanna be’s” with a Messiah complex pray for those that ask them to, emotionally ill people that demand attention (over and over) and other emotionally ill people who ruined it for many others who left. What started out as a Q&A site became a haven for people who have no other lives outside of the site. Personally, I didn’t go to the site to hear people’s problems – we ALL have problems (and I posted a few of mine in appropriate questions that asked about them). A website is entertainment and the mods should make sure it stays that way. People who come to the site to get the life they otherwise don’t have are on the wrong site. SO MANY people left that site (and many came HERE) because of the change.

EmpressPixie's avatar

I think there are a number of things that might contribute to this. The first is that, like MacBean and Augustlan said, Fluther has attracted a large number of intelligent people—and I would go beyond that and say Fluther was designed to attract a large number of intelligent people. If not in the hopes for the community, it wouldn’t be worked into the Guidelines that questions must be intelligently worded and properly presented (spelling/grammar). Intelligent people are more likely to take a very realistic view of the world.

Like aviona says, being anonymous here allows people to let go of emotions they may not otherwise let go of. For example, I’m feeling pretty darn chirpy today. No one looking at me would see anything other than a smiling, peppy girl. But I’m a mess inside because I’ve put in a grad school application to a highly ambitious school. Being anonymous online makes it easier for me to talk about the “mess inside” part. I wouldn’t talk about it in the real world for several reasons, but online I can say it freely and alone and you won’t expect anything more or less.

Which leads me into my next point—it’s easier to talk about negative emotions online and harder to express happiness. It’s something I’ve noticed in blogs and other communities. It’s really easy to get across being mopey and sad online—it’s a great medium for it. It seems much harder to really convey happiness. No matter how you try, it seems like the attempts just fall flat at describing it.

So in answering if Fluther attracts depressives—I think the Internet makes it easier to express negative emotions we’re otherwise socially less able to express, while being a better medium for these negative emotions. In addition, there are lots of highly intelligent, articulate people here expressing all the time, which means that a lot of what is expressed will be the sad things we can’t say elsewhere or the super realistic views we have, while the positive views that are expressed just don’t make as much of an impact in your memory because it’s not as good of a medium for them.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@Mr_M, don’t forget the whole Bonus Question fiasco. That really ‘buggered’ things up at the aforementioned nameless site.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@Mr_M, I’m not so sure that I agree that a Web site is entertainment. Television is entertainment. Fluther is a community. Communities are not entertainment; they’re engagement. Everyone that comes to Fluther and stays does so because, in a sense, part of them “lives” here. Our lives are not entertainment for others, even though it might be fascinating at times to meet people vastly different from ourselves.

Mr_M's avatar

I think it’s entertainment. It may be a learning experience as well but I think it’s entertainment. If it wasn’t entertaining (and I put “interesting” under “entertaining”), people would not come. Coming to a website, remember, is a VOLUNTARY thing. But that’s the thing. It’s a mistake for people to use this site (or ANY site) as a replacement for a life. The people I’m thinking about, that’s what they do. The site is the only life they have. But the people on a site like this, however nice they may be, are not REAL friends. Oh some people think they are, some people need them to be, some people even FOOL themselves into thinking that’s the case but it’s SO not, nor should they be expected to be. I know my views will NOT go over well to people who need to see the site as more then that.

Mr_M's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra , I disagree. I STRONGLY disagree. PEOPLE ruined that site. Nothing else (unless you want to blame its lack of moderators which, ultimately, allowed people to do whatever they wanted).

aprilsimnel's avatar

I wouldn’t say as a general rule, this site attracts depressives so much as it’s a place that’s set up to answer questions, and a lot of those questions would touch on feelings and emotional states. A lot of people can’t talk about their feelings to others in their day to day lives. Relatives and friends can be caring and concerned, but they are not equipped to help a person through trying times. On the web, and on this site in particular, there are understanding folk who have gone through similar events.

That’s comforting to know. At the same time, there’s enough goofiness to make it fun and there are enough of other kinds of questions to have different kinds of discussions. The beauty is in being able to ignore or participate in any discussion one likes, and that it’s moderated here. I’ve seen some nasty site meltdowns at places where the moderation grew lax or was non-existent, and am glad that there’s very little of that malarkey here.

casheroo's avatar

I think the anonymity definitely let’s people discuss it more freely. I do not walk up to strangers and tell them my history of depression. But, it is relevent on some threads on this board, so of course it will be brought up.
I’ve never heard people say depressed people are more intelligent. I find that interesting.

wundayatta's avatar

I think sites like this are much more likely to attract people suffering from depression. I believe the percentage of people with depression on fluther is much higher than it is in the real world. It seems to me that every other person I talk to is depressed here, and half of them are bipolar.

My theory is that fluther is a way to reach out and have contact with people, without actually having to get yourself to face the real world, or face rejection. A lot of people with rejection can not get themselves out of their bedrooms in the morning. They can’t do much of anything, at times. However, we still, I believe, crave connection. We crave love more than anything.

Here at fluther, that’s what we get, literally and metaphorically. Fluther is very specific about this. We get lurve for talking to people, well, writing to them. We get more, of course. We get to think, and express our thoughts. We get support, because people generally tend to be understanding and supportive. It’s almost like a giant support group. And we don’t have to leave our houses to get it!

Depressed people often have a really hard time getting out of the house. We are sure we can do nothing, so what’s the point? We are worthless people, so we’ll only be exposed to ridicule and hatred if we go out, but that doesn’t really matter, because we deserve it. We are talentless, and of no use to anyone whatsoever.

Perhaps not all of us feel this way, or we feel it to a greater or lesser extent. It is certainly how I felt, and when I shared my feelings, I got a lot of people who said it was as if I was reading their minds.

Here, and on other places like this, we reach out, and we find, surprisingly, so many people like us. People who understand. Most normal people have no idea at all what it is like to be depressed—clinically depressed. They’ve only been sad. It’s really hard to imagine what it’s like to be so far down in a dank dungeon, unable to imagine ever getting out, except if you die.

Here, a lot of people understand. They don’t tell you you should just buck up and pull yourself out of it. They understand meds and the struggles we go through to get better. And this is therapeutic.

I think it saved my life. I med another depressed person here, and we became friends, and there was one night when I was just about ready to do myself in. I was thinking about methods. I called her, because I knew she was like this, too. I wanted to make a suicide pact because I wasn’t sure I could do it on my own.

We were talking about all these methods (we had different ones in mind) and the more we talked, the more absurd it got, and, believe it or not, we started laughing. And laughing some more. And then laughing so hard, we couldn’t stop. Everything we said became funny. Both of us believe the other saved our lives that night.

Out in public, I can tell who is bipolar or depressed. It’s as if I have some sixth sense. When I’ve asked about it, I’ve almost never been wrong. Once you’ve been there, you can see it in others. You know the signs.

There are many fewer people in real life, who are depressed. I think the stats about mental illness say that one in five people are mentally ill. Of those, only a certain percent are depressed or manic-depressive. Here, on fluther, the percentage of depressed seems much higher. If I had to guess, I’d say between 20% and 40%.

So, yes, I do think fluther attracts “depressives.” I think this is a good thing. I don’t know how those without the disease perceive it. Maybe they get annoyed at all the questions about depression, but, of course, like anyone, they can ignore the questions they don’t like. This site also attracts young people with a host of relationship issues. This, too, is a good thing. Some people may complain, but they, too, are free to ignore those questions. As far as I’m concerned, I’m grateful this place exists, despite my feeling that moderators are squidgy sometimes.

nebule's avatar

@daloon couldn’t have put it better myself x

Mr_M's avatar

@daloon, you say “I called her, because I knew she was like this, too. I wanted to make a suicide pact because I wasn’t sure I could do it on my own.”

And, apparently, you did make some sort of a pact. By LUCK, this story has a happy ending.

By luck.

Two people could have died.

And this is a good thing why?

wundayatta's avatar

There was a greater chance of each of them dying without that connection. Yeah, it was luck. And maybe it’s an exaggeration, but it’s the story I tell myself when I need to experience that feeling of being lucky to be alive. If it hadn’t been that, then maybe something else would have played an important role. But it was that, and without sites like this to connect with other folks, that would not have been an option available to me.

elijah's avatar

@daloon your answer is perfect. I wish I wasn’t maxed out on lurve for you.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Sometimes depression is from lack of connection. Not everyone has deep, meaningful friendships. People move a lot, family members die, are distant or dysfunctional. Work overload creates work associations that aren’t real friendships, work scheduling prohibits creating friendships outside of work. People get busy with their own lives and don’t have the bandwidth to create new relationships. The older you get, the harder it is to forge new relationships, especially without a sustainable community.

ninjacolin's avatar

We are social creatures and we need people about us who care about us. Without that, we’ll either get depressed or else we’ll find friends online. ;)

LostInParadise's avatar

As usual, you guys provided great answers.

@Mr_M, your story about how a few people could bring down a Q & A site is a good cautionary tale.

@daloon , I would go along with your 20 – 40% estimate. I would think closer to 20%, but that is just my gut reaction. In any case it is much higher than the estimated 5 – 10% of the U. S. population that is depressed at any one time, which is still a signficant portion of the population.

The rate of depression has grown dramatically over the last 50 years. At one point The World Health Organization estimated that it will be the second largest cause of illness by 2010, though I am not sure how they reached that conclusion. http://www.eioba.com/a37635/depression_would_be_second_largest_illness_by_2010

My belief in the social dimension of depression is strongly influenced by countercultural psychologist Bruce Levine, author of Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic. Here is a Web article that gives a sample of his thinking. http://uddari.wordpress.com/2009/02/08/fundamentalist-consumerism-and-an-insane-society-by-bruce-e-levine/

tadpole's avatar

@ninjacolin yes i agree…..anything that can encourage “depressives” so to speak to talk and communicate or take part in some sort of community has got to be good…..for depressives read anyone with mental or emotional difficulties..note i am not saying you Have To….!

mally03's avatar

Some people confuse being shy, or socially awkward, with being depressed. Many intelligent people are socially awkward, but not depressed. So, no, I dont think Fluther nessaseraly attracts deppressives.

MacBean's avatar

@mally03 That’s an interesting spelling of necessarily.

tadpole's avatar

@MacBean don’t depress me…

Ladymia69's avatar

Depressive people are usually introverted, and introverted people are more likely to be on such a website as fluther.

Strauss's avatar

I like Fluther because it is a community that promotes intelligent conversation about an extremely wide range of topics. I think that fact, added to the anonymity, makes it a safe place for someone anyone to speak about personal issues, experiences, and feelings. If it were a real community and we were meeting on a regular basis,

Coloma's avatar

Well this member is not a depressive type, and yes, I am an extrovert and overall optimist.
I have been depressed in my life, but it is always situational, like when I divorced, not an intrinsic condition. I am rarely down in the dumps for long.
I like Fluther for the intellectual stimulation, sharing of information, discussion and diverse range of topics.

Actually, if anything, I get depressed when I am surrounded by boring, pedantic and unstimulating types. Hardly the case here at fluther.
I do NOT CARE what you made for dinner last Tuesday or what great deal you got on 15 gallons of bleach at the outlet store, or the petty relationship drama in your life. I want to talk about BIG things, FUN things, INTERESTING things, not boring, hum drum, daily grind details.lol

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