The same can be said about general social media platforms, and social media aimed at helping people manage their mental health. Narrative notes written by clinicians do not capture first-hand the patients’ own experiences; even with the increasing use of natural language processing of EHRs to study mental health conditions, the notes can be misunderstood. Whereas clinicians can only give their professional impressions, social media platforms can often be more insightful.
Many users have not shied away from discussing well-being and mental health on social media, seeing it as a platform to express themselves more freely. The study conducted by Gkotsis et al. (2017), where they analysed posts from the social media platform Reddit and used a neural network and deep learning approach enabled them to automatically recognise mental illness-related posts with an accuracy of 91.08%. Steps such as these, using social media data to make advancements in mental health research, shows the potential of using big data to develop methods that will target interventions.
Conversely, research has shown that social media does have a negative effect on the user’s mental health. From a decrease in self-esteem to depression and anxiety, platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are having a substantial impact on users.
While the use of social media does not prevent the use of big data to further advancements in mental health research and develop solutions, it does mean we need to be careful about the social media data being analysed. With many users stating platforms such as Instagram have made them feel inadequate, some may either underplay or over exaggerate the effect social media has had on them. Since a large number of people are not well-versed in mental health, self-diagnosis can either lead to many claiming they are suffering from depression or make others downplay their emotions. This can skew mental health data gathered from social media.
Furthermore, with social media having a negative effect on the mental health of its users, it means we have to use big data to solve the new and emerging problem of how to prevent social media from affecting users’ mental health.
Nevertheless, as shown by Schwartz et al. (2014) who developed a model to estimate user changes in depression across seasons based on Facebook users’ status updates and survey responses, there is great potential in how social media data can be used to advance research in mental health and provide solutions.
Written by Rodney
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