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Signs of depression  indicated by social media posts

11-09 | Rachael

Signs of depression indicated by social media posts

In today’s world, the virtual space has garnered more attention than the real life. With the progression of technology and foray of social networking sites (SNSs), people gradually started shifting their focus from their daily life problems to social media. As a result, people are not just washing their dirty linen in public by discussing about their relationship crass, but also committing self-harm like a live suicide.

Many people chronicle their daily life activities on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.  However, behind the quirky posts and highly edited pictures, there lies the intolerable symptoms of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder and so forth.

Several studies have succeeded in illustrating the repercussions of different social media portals. A recent article concluded that posting too many photographs on social media could be a sign of depression while another study revealed that using certain filters of Instagram can help detect depression. While people going through depression prefer darker and greyer filters, such as ‘Inkwell,’ people who are healthy prefer vivid and brighter colors.

Grayer filters commonly preferred by users going through depression

In today’s world, social media has become an inevitable part of everyone’s life. Therefore, it has the potential to identify the early signs of mental illness like depression based on algorithmic identification and machine learning tools. One’s social media profile can narrate a lot about his or her interests, likes, dislikes or habits. In order to understand the common patterns of depressive symptoms among users, researchers Andrew G. Reece with Harvard University and Christopher M. Danforth with the University of Vermont surveyed 43,950 Instagram photos of 166 volunteers recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

The subjects were asked to attend a standardized clinical depression survey  to assess the depression level. The participants were supposed to answer demographic questions and share information about their use of social media, including their Instagram usernames, and their history of depression. Besides the above survey, the researchers analyzed a range of characteristics based on the pictures and the related Instagram metadata.

Some of the key parameters used while examining the photos were as follows:

  • People present in the photos – depression is associated with social isolation
  • Hues and use of Instagram filters – research has associated darker and grayer colors with negative mood
  • Posts per user per day – to measure a user’s activity
  • Number of comments and likes for each post – to measure community engagement

Using a multitude of computational methods ranging from machine learning to image processing, the authors found that individuals who are depressed generally prefer bluer, darker and grayer filters compared to the healthy users.

Furthermore, people with depression received more comments but fewer likes than the posts updated by those who are not depressed. Participants going through depression tend to post more frequently and are less likely to use filters. While engaging with filters, they prefer engaging with grayer and darker shades, such as “Inkwell.” Lastly, they are more likely to post images with faces and fewer people. The researchers concluded, “The finding may be an oblique indicator that depressed users interact in smaller social settings, or at least choose only to share experiences of this sort on social media. This would be in accordance with the previous finding that reduced social interaction is an indicator of depression.”

In addition, depression could be distinguished by taking a glimpse of the posts made before the diagnosis of depression. While scrutinizing the data based on the pictures posted before depression, the researcher’s model recognized about a third of people with depression that was right most of the time. The general practitioners distinguished more cases of depression based on the above model. By incorporating the analysis of photos, tags, captions or comments, one can effectively detect people with depression.

Seek treatment to overcome depression

Psychological distress can affect one’s mental, physical or emotional state, as well as affect his or her personal and professional relationships. Since mental health conditions are treatable, it is necessary to keep a tab on the depressive symptoms to ensure effective treatment and an early diagnosis.

If you or your loved one is suffering from any kind of mental illness, it is important to seek professional help. The Depression Treatment Helpline of Colorado assists in accessing the best depression treatment centers in Colorado. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-427-5668 or chat online with our medical advisers to know more about the depression treatment in Colorado.


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