JUN 14, 2019 12:05 AM PDT

Possible Applications Of Social Media Analysis In Public Health

WRITTEN BY: Abbie Arce

It’s likely that at some point you’ve taken one of those personality tests in school. Probably at the start of your intro to psychology class. These tests measure your big five personality traits and provide you with a personality type. In the age of social media, it is possible that tweets, likes, posts, and photos can similarly be analyzed to discern personality type and even a person’s mood. Although there are obvious concerns in terms of user privacy, analysis of a person’s digital footprint could be applied to public health.

The technology available to evaluate a person’s digital footprint is already freakishly accurate. Researchers at the University of Cambridge and Stanford University, for example, were able to demonstrate an algorithm’s ability to discern a person’s personality type. The five dimensions measured are typically viewed as representing a person’s overall personality. These dimensions are openness to experience, contentiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. The degree to which each of these is present in an individual gives us insight into who they are.

To demonstrate this, researchers trained an algorithm using data from over 70,000 Facebook users. With as few as 10 data points, for example, likes, the algorithm could describe that person as well as a coworker. Using only 70 likes computers could describe a person as well as a friend. Using only 300 data points, the algorithm knew a person better than their spouse. Incredibly that’s not all researchers learned about subjects during the study. It was also apparent if a user had depression, engaged in drug use, or studied a particular subject in school.

One area this data can be valuable is within public health, specifically suicide prevention. Facebook, for example, already uses algorithms to help provide support options to those deemed at-risk. This service came about because Facebook noticed people had been using the platform to announce their suicides and in some cases, even the live stream them on the web.

Additionally, apps that track behavioral changes can help doctors monitor at-risk patients like that currently being studied at the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus in Dresden. The app tracks a person’s social media and phone use, as well as their GPS data. This tracking allows doctors to receive an alert when a patient may not have left home for several days or have sent far fewer texts than average.

Although they may be used for good, algorithms can also be used for political, research, and commercial applications. For example, companies can analyze your data with terrifying accuracy and market to you based on your personality. They can also analyze your mood and market to you only when you’re happy, and therefore more likely to buy their product. This info can also be used in political campaigns. Companies, like Cambridge Analytica, can analyze your personality and send you targeted ads based on their findings. Companies have reported success in this endeavor and credit the victory of some candidates in recent elections to their statistical analysis.

The above video from TED discusses just how much these platforms know about us, and how to help protect your data.

 

 

 

Sources: TEDNational Academy of Sciences

About the Author
  • Abbie is an AFAA certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with an interest in all things health-science. She has recently graduated with her BS in Applied Sport and Exercise Science from Barry University in Miami. Next, she intends to earn an MPH with a focus in Epidemiology.
You May Also Like
DEC 07, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Monitoring marine animal activity under the sea
DEC 07, 2020
Monitoring marine animal activity under the sea
In a new study published in the journal Animal Biotelemetry, researchers report on the development of an applicatio ...
DEC 26, 2020
Technology
New AI System ID's Mosquitoes
DEC 26, 2020
New AI System ID's Mosquitoes
Identifying mosquitoes that transmit disease, such as malaria, is a critical public health effort. Learn more about mosq ...
JAN 27, 2021
Technology
Cooling Apparatus Clarifies Atomic Studies
JAN 27, 2021
Cooling Apparatus Clarifies Atomic Studies
Atoms are best studied when slowed down and to slow them, atoms must be cooled. As such, researchers at the Nationa ...
FEB 01, 2021
Technology
Computer Science and The Brain
FEB 01, 2021
Computer Science and The Brain
The world is seeing an increase in students interested in computer science and the age of students beginning to code is ...
FEB 21, 2021
Technology
Math Model Detects False-Negative COVID19 Rates
FEB 21, 2021
Math Model Detects False-Negative COVID19 Rates
Millions of Americans are receiving their COVID19 vaccine everyday—however, officials say that it will take months ...
APR 01, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
E-Skin Device Sticks onto Throat, Detects COVID Infections
APR 01, 2021
E-Skin Device Sticks onto Throat, Detects COVID Infections
What is e-skin technology? These wearable electronics are soft, flexible, and stick on to the surface of skin with a vas ...
Loading Comments...