Social Media Posts Show Early Signs of Depression

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. comb through / koʊm θruː / (phrasal) – to thoroughly examine something

    The nurse combed through the medical files to help find the patient’s records.

  2. pinpoint / ˈpɪnˌpoɪnt / (v) – to accurately find out something

    The doctor was able to pinpoint the cause of my stomach pain.

  3. preoccupation / ˌpriːˌɑːkjəˈpeɪʃən / (n) – the state of being completely lost in thought about something

    Preoccupation with oneself is often perceived negatively.

  4. in the long run / ɪn ðə lɑːŋ rʌn / (idiom) – eventually, usually after a long time

    If you don’t consult a doctor, you will suffer in the long run.

  5. contrast / ˈkɑːnˌtræst / (n) – the act of comparing or identifying differences

    My sister’s colorful room is a weird contrast to my dark room.


Read the text below.

Social media posts can show early signs of depression, a new study has found.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Stony Brook University examined the Facebook posts of 683 participants using artificial intelligence (AI). Among those participants, 114 had medical records of depression, while the rest had none. The researchers combed through the participants’ Facebook updates and identified linguistic red flags or words considered to be warning signs of mental health issues.

The researchers were able to pinpoint specific words commonly used by those who were diagnosed with depression. Apparently, diagnosed individuals frequently used first-person pronouns like “I” and “me,” which indicate self-preoccupation—a sign of depression. The researchers also observed that depressed participants heavily used words like “tears,” “feelings,” and “alone” on Facebook.

While social media is believed to negatively affect mental health, the researchers still recognize that it may become a vital instrument to identify, monitor, and treat mental illness in the long run. Using AI, the researchers claim that they can detect depression at least three months before it can be diagnosed by doctors.

In 2016, researchers from the University of Vermont and Harvard University also conducted a study on social media and depression. They developed an AI that used color analysis and face detection to spot signs of depression in Instagram photos. The researchers noticed that depressed individuals rarely used filters and posted photos with darker shades like blue and gray. In contrast, those without depression used filters with brighter and warmer colors.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think that checking social media history is reliable in diagnosing depression? Why or why not?
• How do you think these findings would affect social media users? Explain.

Discussion B

• Do you think publicly expressing feelings online is healthy? Why or why not?
• How do you think individuals would be affected if they could not freely express themselves? Explain.