I, Myself, Me = Depression?


How did you know? 

It’s, apparently, self-evident from the book I am currently writing that I have depression. This new revelation comes from headlines across the internet: that one can be diagnosed with depression through a computer analysis of their writing. It’s a bit scary. I don’t care about people knowing I’m mentally ill, though there are many anxiety filled bloggers who would keep a detail like that secret. Look at all the psychiatrists and psychologists and busybodies trying to assign our president some sort of mental illness even though he never writes (or reads). What if David Brooks was diagnosed with pomposity or something like that? Wait a minute, we judge writers all the time. Folks who write are judged by what they write. Right? 

This is different. An App is required to analyze the usage of certain words that then provide a medical diagnosis. This is not an opinion generated by a machine, it’s a fairly accurate probability of the author having depression. The use of pronouns is key to the diagnosis. The more self-referential, the more likely one is to be depressed, somehow. The use of sad, depressing words is less relevant than the absence of pronouns like ‘they’ or ‘them’ or ‘she,’ and the prevalence of ‘I’ ‘myself’ and ‘me’. Upon learning this, now and henceforth, I myself me the royal ‘we’ shall make an effort to reduce the number of self-referential pronouns in my this blog. 

At the beginning of the 3/4 finished book a promise was made that: the reader would not learn any personal details about the author. This was obviously a lie on someone’s part about the intent of the author who shall now have to be identified without the use of certain incriminating pronouns. This is going to be a challenge for the author since the joke of the plot is that the author can’t seem to discuss any topic without making it personal. Although the more he thinks about it the more foolish he feels for going to such elaborate lengths to avoid imbuing his book with evidence to what he has already confessed – being depressed. He shouldn’t be so concerned about what a computer may someday analyze; editing out pronouns will only disprove what he has already confessed!

You know what’s funny about this is, that I actually exported my current draft of the book into other software to do a usage count of pronouns. So far, out of 25,000 words ‘I’ has been used 365 times, ‘my’ 125 times and ‘me’ 62 times. If I had used ‘I’ twice was much would I need more Prozac? ‘She’ was used only 25 times, a bit sexist don’t you think? Write what you know, they say.  

During my time in academia it became clear that avoiding self-referential elements in emails and communications with students and administrators alike helped temper the reaction to critical or undesired comments. This was the opposite of an unnamed colleague of mine; who could be described by saying, “A conversation with him was always a conversation about him no matter the topic.” By editing my ‘self’ out of the conversation there was nothing to make make the recipient angry with me personally. The message could be communicated clearly and live or die without the baggage of personalities and emotionality. It could still be written with compassion and sympathy while staying focused upon the intended message to the reader. I guess my professional documents would not provide evidence of depression. One wonders just how reliable this new technology is? 

Any Thoughts?