Facebook has built its entire business model on knowing as much about you as possible. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, according to a team of medical researchers and computer scientists, your Facebook posts could be used to determine whether or not you will develop mood disorders in the future.
According to the study, users with schizophrenia or other mood disorders are more likely to use curse words and emphatic punctuation in their posts. They are also more likely to use words related to pain and negative emotions. Researchers say this could be used to detect these illnesses over a year in advance.
“There is great promise in the current research regarding the relationship between social media activity and behavioral health, and our results… demonstrate that machine learning algorithms are capable of identifying signals associated with mental illness, well over a year in advance of the first psychiatric hospitalization,” said one of the study’s co-authors, Michael Birnbaum. “We have the potential to thoughtfully bring psychiatry into the modern, digital age by integrating these data into the field.”
Of course, there are also massive privacy concerns with a venture like this. Would users really be willing to have their mental health evaluated constantly just because they’re on Facebook? And would Facebook then be in charge of our private health data? There’s no doubt this technology could prove immensely useful, but there are many important questions to answer first.
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