We no longer have heroes, we have corporations. Singular figures like George Washington, JFK or Abraham Lincoln have given way to the impersonal faces of new titans. Google, Amazon and Facebook are each more powerful than entire nations. Their influence over our lives is so all-consuming that not even the most dedicated socialist could live in the modern world without being included in their systems.
That myth, of course, has crumbled, and now the corporations are working to remedy the problems they’ve helped, in part, to create. Google is adding a new function where a person who makes a search about depression is immediately presented with a blue icon, informing them about depression, and even providing a way to diagnose themselves or seek treatment.
It’s called a “knowledge box”, and you can use it to “check if you’re clinically depressed”. It takes you to a set of questions titled the PHQ-9, a way to know if your depression is serious and needs to be addressed. The questions can be answered in a minute or less.
Google had Mary Giliberti, CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, come in to write on the nature of the program: “We hope that by making this information available on Google, more people will become aware of depression and seek treatment to recover and improve their quality of life,” she said.
I’m of two different minds about this. Of course, it seems like a great thing, that the corporate world is taking depression so seriously, and that Google, a company nearly omnipresent in our lives, is at the forefront of helping to identify mental illness. Since people are on Google all day, it seems like the best place to put it.
But the definition of a totalitarian system is that nothing exists outside of it. Any total system, a system that includes everything within it, is essentially totalitarian in nature. If Google, Amazon and Facebook all contain virtually every resource we require to survive, from books to information to social media to Whole Foods, then they essentially own you. You are a consensual participant in a totality of control stronger than any government.
So what can we do? How do we improve our mental health? By browsing endlessly and inundating ourselves with news and despair? Probably not. It will take major lifestyle changes, and I’m not sure that checking in with Google on the state of your soul, then taking some pills and returning to that depressing online lifestyle is the cure-all. It seems like a band-aid pressed upon a gaping wound.