Scientists are slowly finding their way into social media, all in pursuit of meaningful data that can be used to give a clear understanding of the physical and mental well-being of certain communities. It may be considered an infringement of users privacy, but researchers are affirming that a study of people’s status and sharing’s on Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) could be useful in the long-term in providing meaningful data.
It is not the first time that researchers have used this tactic to collect data depending on a study. For a couple of years, flu outbreak have been flagged by essentially counting the number of people googling flu. Using Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and Twitter to collect such important data, however, raises privacy concerns especially with users who feel there is too much snooping online.
Johannes Eichstaedt, a researcher from the University of Pennsylvania, is taking the approach to another new level by essentially using tweets to predict chances of someone suffering from heart disease or depression. What’s more surprising is that he doesn’t necessarily rely on tweets written by those people who are stressed, but essentially studies tweets from an entire community. Eichstaedt affirms that communities will always share particular traits such as feeling angry, road rage or even how they feel insecure about the outside; data that can be used to highlight traits of a given neighborhood.
The researcher believes that public health officials will one day be able to look at these social media maps to come up with interventions specifically designed for each neighborhood. The method is somehow creepy in its own right, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) having already found itself in trouble for publishing results of a psychological experiment it had conducted on close to 700,000 of its users.
Facebook was forced to apologize and promised not to carry similar studies again after a massive public uproar on using user’s personal information without consent. Computer scientists, psychologists and tacticians are however not backing down as they continue to shovel billions of tweets and Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) status into the maws of computers in a bid to gather data for analyzing given group’s physical and mental health.
Dr. Michal Kosinski of Stanford University says that by essentially studying people’s profile as well as Twitter feed, they can be able to accurately predict very intimate traits that people may not be aware they are revealing. The researcher already has a working computer program that can predict one’s political religious and sexual orientation even one’s IQ by essentially using content shared on Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB).
The new methods are still evolving as their accuracy continues to be compared to traditional gold standard studies as people remain reluctant to make meaningful conclusions from something as trivial as tweets.
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