The same way we were blissfully unaware of the effects of eating processed foods after the war, I have equally wondered about what the data being collected on all of us that use social media will yield in the near future.
Last week I stumbled upon an article of some research that came out of Harvard and the University of Vermont. They analyzed a bunch Instagram photos and looked for trends. What they were able to find was that users that used particular filters had a higher rate of depression while users that used other filters had a lower rate. I was immediately intrigued.
Apart from people making jokes about being depressed or wanting to kill themselves or being literally dead, I have wondered about this topic for a long time. According to this article, 430 Facebook users die every hour and I wonder what it is for twitter and Instagram. Could it be possible to sort through these profiles and use the data gathered to craft an algorithm that could be able to gauge the mental health of the diseased? Would gathering information about these people from close family and friends hold a clue? Should an autopsy report also include information about the individuals rapport with social media?
Of all the things, that has facinated me about mental health, I have been the most sad about the fact that the person who is mentally ill may not know and their friends probably will not know until it is too late. 2 out of 3 people do not know first aid and most people can not identify if someone is suicidal or depressed just by looking at them.
It is one thing to hear about an article like this but one step further, what do you do if you see warning signs and the actual person is not yet aware of it. Are you equipped to talk someone off the ledge? Are you able to do basic first aid if you catch your closest friend attempting suicide?
Although these topics are quite heavy, they need to be talked about because they are much more commonplace than we notice them to be. In my short life at least 10 times, I have ended up in situations where someone I know is having a mental break down and I wish that I was as knowledgeable then as I am now. Then I was guessing and as I reflect on those situations now, I am lucky that I was surrounded by people who had more knowledge than me that were able to intervene at the right time.
I am excited about the future of social media because researching our habits online, it is the next logical step with all the data that has been divulged willingly by internet users.
Tomorrows topic: Expressing emotions – How do you feel?