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Clay Shirky On Hackers and Depression: Where's the Love? 319

giminy writes "Clay Shirky has a thought-provoking piece on depression in the hacker community. While hackers tend to be great at internet collaboration on software projects, we often fall short when it comes to helping each other with personal problems. The evidence is only anecdotal, but there seems to be a higher than average incidence of mental health issues among hackers and internet freedom fighters. It would be great to see this addressed by our community through some outreach and awareness programs."
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Clay Shirky On Hackers and Depression: Where's the Love?

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  • by Improv ( 2467 ) <> on Thursday January 24, 2013 @10:34AM (#42679915) Homepage Journal

    So cute when people get full of themselves and take on a title like that. Sometimes the depression is when that lofty self-perception is a kite that gets snagged in one of the trees of reality.

    I suspect it's also that a lot of us became computer types after neglecting human ties to some degree, and once we get old enough we either come back and learn to deal with people, or we become increasingly lonely and unbalanced as we age. Sometimes both.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 24, 2013 @11:11AM (#42680207)

    As a former art student, I used to see the same thing in the halls of art school. Students were very creative, full of self-inflated egos ready to do the next big thing. The problem was, we all had our own reality distortion field. Another problem: lots of depression going on, resulting in poor people-relationships. Now that I've been out of school for nearly a decade, the artists who "make it" aren't necessarily the most talented, but are the ones who can relate to people and gallery owners. In other words, there's a salesmanship aspect to their pitch - some people call it charisma. I don't mean that in a bad way, but they've come to understand other people's emotions and some are even married. I didn't become a big shot artist but I have an office job.
    Artists get this reputation of being lovers or some crap like that, but trust me, we don't retain relationships. On a final note, I don' t consider wannabe geeks or emo/ hipster kids to be 'artists' in my above commentary, but I think they have different issues to work out.

  • by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @11:18AM (#42680267)

    I used to think depression was an intrinsic part of my personality, like introversion. Then I started taking Vitamin D supplements and the depression went away. I'm still a misanthropic curmudgeon, but I'm a *happy* misanthropic curmudgeon.

    My point is, you don't have to give up the things you like about yourself in order to get over depression. And in some cases it can be as simple as turning on a flourescent light [] or taking a cheap over-the-counter vitamin.

  • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @11:59AM (#42680599) Homepage Journal

    Seriously, when has "outreach" or "awareness" ever solved anything? (Urban violence? Drug use? What?)

    There are examples. I haven't looked for any myself, but I heard about this one as I do Parkour:

    According to figures from the Metropolitan Police, when sports projects were run in the borough of Westminster during the 2005 Easter holidays, youth crime dropped by 39 per cent. The following year, the most recent for which figures are available, when parkour was added to the projects, youth crime fell by 69 per cent.

    Source []

  • Re:Critical thinking (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @12:11PM (#42680667)

    When you strip the world of comforting delusions, nihilism is all you have left. I imagine a lot of activists remain so dedicated so they can avoid having to give up the last thing that gives their life any form of meaning. They fight because the alternative is to admit that in a long term view, they are nothing.

  • by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @12:26PM (#42680763)

    > The cultures and sub-cultures that we are part of need to be more caring

    Actually, our communities DO tend to be "more caring" -- we just happen to have a different definition of "caring" than most people.

    If somebody who's known on a computer/tech-related forum says that he's depressed because he feels overwhelmed by ${some-problem}, he'll get dozens or hundreds of replies, most of which will be genuine attempts to be helpful, with specific suggestions for things to try and solve that problem. Some might be from people willing to work quite hard to help solve their specific problem.

    What he's NOT going to get are warm, fuzzy, "tell me about your feelings about the world's unjustness" replies.

    It's just how we are. We're systemizers, not empaths.We love to solve problems. We get annoyed when people whine about things that can't be defined and constrained to some clear context or scope where it's possible to define what even CONSTITUTES a "solution"... unless we happen to be in a mood to commiserate. The fact that such commiseration tends to amplify, reinforce, and legitimize the other's depression is just an unfortunate side effect.

    Imagine, for a moment, a hypothetical Slashdot story with a headline like "Joe Python is a programmer who wants to kill himself in the most efficient way possible... what are his options, what are the relative advantages and drawbacks of each, and what equipment will he need to procure in order to carry it out?" Does anybody doubt for a NANOSECOND that it wouldn't get several hundred replies, 90% of which would involve lethal injection cocktail recipes, nitrogen asphyxiation, pre-suicide arrangements for the care and feeding of pets, equipment reviews, countdown checklists (wipe computer, note passwords you want to share with others, update your will, etc) and other suggestions that are mostly intended to be helpful by posters for whom it doesn't quite sink in that the guy wants to literally kill himself?

    We DO care. We'll work hard to solve the problems of people we care about. We just won't pretend to care when they go on and on about something they can't be reasoned with. By the time we feel like we've made our third full circle without progress or resolution, we'll get bored and go to lunch. Or head over to Slashdot.

Whenever people agree with me, I always think I must be wrong. - Oscar Wilde