Social media activity can give extraordinary insights into our mental wellbeing. Professionals are looking at our emotional health online and exploring how they can use these signals to take the ‘emotional pulse’ of individuals, communities, nations and even the entire species.
The types of posts we make and how frequently we make them say much more about who we are and what’s going on in our lives than the words themselves, or even having a face to face conversation with somebody. A study of Facebook users in the US found that extroverts were more likely to post about social activities and everyday life, and to do so frequently. However, people with lower self-esteem tended to post more often about their romantic partner and digitally tweak their photos a lot, and neurotic individuals turn to Facebook for validation and attention-seeking, while people with narcissistic and psychopathic tendencies are more likely to use status updates to boast about their achievements or their diet and exercise and post lots of selfies.
A University of Copenhagen study suggests excessive use of social media can create feelings of envy and a “deterioration of mood” induced by “unrealistic social comparisons.” Women particularly who participate in regular use of social networking have been reported to have a lower sense of well-being and satisfaction with life. The study particularly warns about the negative impact of “lurking” on social media without connecting with anyone.
“Lurking” on social media without directly getting involved with people or actions or issues is the problem for many people. Avoiding “lurking” and taking breaks from social media are researched to bring people back to a positive space with their lives and how they view themselves.
Anyone who’s ever dumped an angry rant on Facebook or posted a bleak tweet at 3am will know that there is some form of self-therapy embedded in our use of social media, but is it improving our mental state or just emotionally vomiting into a void that actually amplifies our problems? Are we relying on short term feel good void submissions that never really produce positivity in our life rather than actually investing in our long term psychological well-being? The Center of Mental Health and Gender of Mexico, in Mexico City believes so and is reported to have launched a campaign warning citizens that sharing their woes on Facebook is not a cheap replacement for proper psychological therapy.
But researchers and community health experts are beginning to actually listen to the void and thus could help by looking at how people’s status updates or Twitter posts might be observed for red flags. A recently conducted study using a computer program monitored two months worth of tweets for certain suicide-related phrases or terms. Human researchers and a software program then classified the tweets that appeared to raise concerns. Both the human coders and software had a high level of agreement, which opens up the possibility that software could be taught to identify cries for help. And on the other hand, a lack of social media networking can also indicate mental health problems (we can’t win with social networking!). One study is using a Bluetooth-enabled app to map the patterns of a person’s social connectivity, so it can detect when that person is interacting less with their friends and withdrawing from those networks, which is often a sign of depression. Will we one day receive medical prescribed social networking notifications that diagnose us with depression, anxiety, insecurity, over stress, addiction, suicide tendencies, narcissism, withdrawing from friends/family and overall mental health monitoring? Seems like it’s only a matter of time.
Communities, nations and humanity as a whole often go through ups and downs together. The Black Dog Institute and CSIRO – Australia’s science agency – have joined forces to take the emotional pulse of the entire planet with their “We Feel” initiative. By monitoring public Twitter for a large selection of emotion terms, and also picking a random 1% sample of public tweets, they analyze an average of 19,000 tweets per minute to work out how the Twitterverse is feeling at any moment in time.
The result is a map showing the relative percentages of different emotional states of surprise, joy, love, sadness, anger, fear in different parts of the world. It reveals how these emotional states wax and wane in response to various national and global events.
The team is now using this same approach to analyze the average happiness of Twitter, and show the impact of events such as the 2016 US Presidential debates (a drop in happiness), Brad and Angelina’s divorce (another drop) and the legalization of same-sex marriage (increase in happiness). They are also using this approach to look at how happiness correlates with other factors, such as socioeconomic status, geography and demographics across the US.
Can you imagine the kind of world this would bring about? The potential of having a tool that can measure happiness and which could possibly be used by our government (hopefully not corruptly) and ourselves for living based on the positive pulse of life happiness levels? WOW!!! Huge changes are on the horizon for how we will normally navigate through our lives.
Article above were summarized from the full articles below.