Bookmarked Why Are Kids So Sad? by Malcolm Harris (Intelligencer)

As American youths suffer from a mental-health crisis, the media asks the wrong questions. Instead of focusing on technology, iPhones, and social media, pundits should be paying attention to broader economic and social patterns.

Malcolm Harris goes beyond the technology thesis to explore why children today are so sad. In part, he talks about the lack of genuine autonomy and trust:

Autonomy is essential for developing what psychologists call an “internal locus of control” — the sense that your choices and actions affect your life, that they matter — and that’s exactly what today’s young people don’t have. Decades of studies have established the connection between an external locus of control in youth and hopelessness, depression, and suicidality, but amid the current crisis there’s been no political constituency for giving kids some slack. Instead, the New York Times suggests dialectical behavior therapy, an effective resource-intensive way to help patients deal with their lack of genuine autonomy (and another set of appointments for them to keep). A therapist for every child might be the best solution we can hope for, but I simply do not believe that any substantial portion of children should require frequent psychological treatment to cope with being alive except in a deeply malformed society. Why is the alternative — increasing the trust that we are willing to put in our country’s youth — so unthinkable?

However, at the end of the day, maybe children are sad because we are all sad with the world in disarray.

American kids feel like their actions don’t matter and the world is fucked anyway; is that so different from the rest of us?

In some ways this reminds me of danah boyd’s work with children and technology documented in It’s Complicated.

Liked The Opposite of Depression (

Happiness is fleeting. It doesn’t sustain itself, not like depression can. Happiness isn’t a formidable foe to depression. But purpose is. Purpose can be maintained, and sustained. Purpose doesn’t dissipate when something goes wrong, like happiness does. Purpose forces you to look forward, to look ahead, to see promise beyond the moment.

The opposite of depression is purpose.

Bookmarked The Healing Power of JavaScript by Craig Mod (WIRED)

For some of us—isolates, happy in the dark—code is therapy, an escape and a path to hope in a troubled world.

Craig Mod talks about the meditative nature of coding and its abolity to provide some control in moments when the world seems to be spiraling. “An escape with forward momentum.”

Break the problem into pieces. Put them into a to-do app (I use and love Things). This is how a creative universe is made. Each day, I’d brush aside the general collapse of society that seemed to be happening outside of the frame of my life, and dive into search work, picking off a to-do. Covid was large; my to-do list was reasonable.

Therein lies part of the attraction: moving through that jumble — with all of its perverted poetics of grep and vi and git and apache and .ini — and doing so with a fingers-floating-across-the-keyboard balletic grace, is exhilarating. You feel like an alchemist. And you are. You type esoteric words — near gibberish — into a line-by-line text interface, and with a rush not unlike pulling Excalibur from the stone, you’ve just scaffolded a simple application that can instantly be accessed by a vast number of humans worldwide.

Although coding maybe therapy, I think the other challenge is finding an itch worth scratching.

The challenge to me is to go beyond the question of instruction and understanding of different languages. Beyond debates about fitting it within an already crowded curriculum. Instead the focus should be on creating the conditions in which students are able to take action and create new possibilities. Maybe this involves Minecraft, Ozobot or Spheros, maybe it doesn’t. Most importantly it involves going beyond worrying about training or competency, as Ian Chunn would have it, and instead embracing the world of making by leading the learning.

Mod also provides some background to the process behind writing the piece.

Liked Depression Is the Ultimate Identity Thief (Psychology Today)

Depression is not something that just disrupts our lives — it can change how we see ourselves as people. Let’s start with experiences and resulting connections that never happen because of our depression. Maybe we don’t have the energy to see a new band when they play a show in our town — so we don’t have what could have been a magical life-altering experience of discovering our favorite band. And our identity also becomes connected with helplessness. We don’t naturally assume we are someone who can “make things happen” and plan for the future, because we can’t be sure depression won’t severely undermine our life goals.

Liked Is Everyone Depressed? (The Atlantic)

Feelings of numbness, powerlessness, and hopelessness are now so common as to verge on being considered normal. But what we are seeing is far less likely an actual increase in a disease of the brain than a series of circumstances that is drawing out a similar neurochemical mix. This poses a diagnostic conundrum. Millions of people exhibiting signs of depression now have to discern ennui from temporary grieving from a medical condition. Those at home Googling symptoms need to know when to seek medical care, and when it’s safe to simply try baking more bread. Clinicians, meanwhile, need to decide how best to treat people with new or worsening symptoms: to diagnose millions of people with depression, or to more aggressively treat the social circumstances at the core of so much suffering.

Liked Worth by Colin WalkerColin Walker (

This is the trap we constantly find ourselves in: the need to get, gain, acquire. Instead, to be is literally just that: to be. Being better doesn’t require more, doesn’t require doing, it just just needs us to take a step back and assess, acknowledge, accept.

If doing results from being then great, but it doesn’t automatically make us better.

Replied to Reframing by Colin WalkerColin Walker (

I am using my daily log to force a positive retrospection on each day, reframing it so as not to dwell on the negatives. It isn’t about being more observant but being better at recording and remembering the observations I do have. Getting lost in a funk, being disinterested in things, means that my memory suffers. Badly. I’m terrible at recalling so much and then judge myself harshly for having forgotten it. It’s a negative spiral I could start to unwind by being a little more mindful, a little more present, a little more positive.

Colin, your mention mention of ‘high functioning depression’ reminds me of a quote from Sarah Wilson that Doug Belshaw included in his end of year post:

The more anxious we are, the more high-functioning we will make ourselves appear, which just encourages the world to lean on us more.

Liked Keep on surviving by Colin WalkerColin Walker (

Part of what I want to do with the blog this time around is to further explore my depression and the reasons for it. Not to dwell on it but to acknowledge it in the hope that gaining a true understanding may help release me.

In doing so, I hope it also helps the wider conversation and, perhaps, encourages others to speak out or, at least, admit to themselves they might have a problem.

Replied to A contestant dead, a show axed: the brutal truth of reality TV (ABC News)

On the other hand, the notion of a reality television program providing compassionate “aftercare” to its human fodder seems on par with an abattoir offering humane debriefings to cattle after they have passed through its slicers and dicers.

Another piece on reality tv comes from the Guardian.
Watched A Star Is Born (2018) from IMDb

Directed by Bradley Cooper. With Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott, Greg Grunberg. A musician helps a young singer find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.

A Star Is Born is an intriguing film. The byline could be in the midst of another. As Jackson Maine’s life progressively falls apart the question of depression and addiction as a disease are raised. With seemingly everything it can be hard to have sympathy for sadness. (Here I am reminded of Ben Cousins.) The problem that I think the film raises is how we deal with and support such people? So much of society still seems to silence such things.

On another note, I am glad that my wife and I went and saw it at the cinema added a depth to the music that does not necessarily come through when listening with headphones.

Replied to I’m going dark on social media for the rest of 2018. by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (

I’m cutting out Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Mastodon completely. (Mastodon doesn’t suffer from the organizational issues I described above, but by aping commercial social networking services, it suffers from the same design flaws.) As of tonight, I won’t be logging into those platforms on any device, and I won’t receive comments, likes, reshares, etc, on any of them.

You raise some interesting questions to consider in moving away from social media, especially the point about staying in contact. I have tried to be more mindful of my interactions this year. RSS has definitely been an important part in this (that is how I found this post).

Noting your concerns with Mastodon, I am wondering if you think fixes any of this, especially with its use of feeds and webmentions etc

Bookmarked My name is Wil Wheaton. I Live With Chronic Depression and Generalized Anxiety. I Am Not Ashamed. by Wil Wheaton (Medium)

So another step in our self care is to be gentle with ourselves. Depression is beating up on us already, and we don’t need to help it out. Give yourself permission to acknowledge that you’re feeling terrible (or bad, or whatever it is you are feeling), and then do a little thing, just one single thing, that you probably don’t feel like doing, and I PROMISE you it will help. Some of those things are:

  • Take a shower.
  • Eat a nutritious meal.
  • Take a walk outside (even if it’s literally to the corner and back).
  • Do something — throw a ball, play tug of war, give belly rubs — with a dog. Just about any activity with my dogs, even if it’s just a snuggle on the couch for a few minutes, helps me.
  • Do five minutes of yoga stretching.
  • Listen to a guided meditation and follow along as best as you can.

Finally, please trust me and know that this shitty, awful, overwhelming, terrible way you feel IS NOT FOREVER. It will get better. It always gets better. You are not alone in this fight, and you are OK.

In this address to the American National Alliance on Mental Illness, Wil Wheaton reflects on his experience with chronic depression. This includes accounts of living through years of anxiety until he admitted it in his thirties and did something about it. There has been a bit written about depression lately, especially with the suicide of Anthony Bourdain. Kin Lane credits Bourdain with providing him the confidence to be open about his own struggles with drugs and mental illness. I was also reminded of the suicide a few years ago of Aaron Swartz. A recent report suggested that depression is on the rise across all age groups in America. Responding to Wheaton’s post, Doug Belshaw suggests that in 2018, we need to open up about these things.
Liked HEWN, No. 269 by Audrey Watters (Hack Education Weekly Newsletter)

I’m not ashamed to admit that I can be struck – deeply struck – by the loss of a celebrity. Like the loss of Carrie Fisher and Prince in 2016, this one hit me hard. We tend to attach a lot of meaning to stars – and not just the meaning that Hollywood star systems and the like hope we will. Stars matter because they are inspirational and aspirational, and even when they are larger-than-life, they are, in the end, fragile and human. They live and breathe and love and suffer and die like the rest of us.

Replied to Too Long; Didn’t Read #150 (W. Ian O'Byrne)

Major depression is on the rise among Americans from all age groups, but is rising fastest among teens and young adults, new health insurance data shows.

So what is possibly behind the data? Possibly a mix of “how busy people are” in addition to time spent in front of screens, lack of community, isolation, and sleep disruption.

I am really interested in the posts of ‘friends’ and ‘depression’. I was really taken by Sarah Jeong’s recent reflection on leaving Facebook. One of the things that stood out from her discussion was the habits that we have lost or forgotten.

I sometimes feel bad about letting relationships lapse, but then I think that it takes two to tango. Really not sure. I think that the “True friends will stay in contact if you leave ” is an interesting one. Having wiped my Facebook content, I don’t agree. It can be easy to assume that others are still there, listening, watching, following, lurking. The irony with this is that even if we are active in such spaces, we are often at the whim of the algorithm.

It will be interesting to look back at the influence of technology on the current society. That is, to look at all the parts, such as change in work habits, family, society. Time will tell.

Bookmarked Is everything you think you know about depression wrong? by Johann Hari (the Guardian)

It turns out if you have no control over your work, you are far more likely to become stressed – and, crucially, depressed. Humans have an innate need to feel that what we are doing, day-to-day, is meaningful. When you are controlled, you can’t create meaning out of your work. Suddenly, the depression of many of my friends, even those in fancy jobs – who spend most of their waking hours feeling controlled and unappreciated – started to look not like a problem with their brains, but a problem with their environments.

In this extract from Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions, Johann Hari, who took antidepressants for 14 years, calls for a new approach.