Analysis of social media use could give therapists more complete view of patients' health

January 25, 2013

Facebook activity provided a window into the psychological health of participants in a study at the University of Missouri. Social media profiles could eventually be used as tools for psychologists and therapists, according to study leader Elizabeth Martin, doctoral student in MU's psychological science department in the College of Arts and Science.

"Therapists could possibly use social media activity to create a more complete clinical picture of a patient," Martin said. "The beauty of social media activity as a tool in psychological diagnosis is that it removes some of the problems associated with patients' self-reporting. For example, questionnaires often depend on a person's memory, which may or may not be accurate. By asking patients to share their activity, we were able to see how they expressed themselves naturally. Even the parts of their Facebook activities that they chose to conceal exposed information about their ."

To conduct the study, Martin's team asked participants to print their Facebook activity and correlated aspects of that activity with the degree to which those individuals exhibited schizotypy, a range of symptoms including to odd beliefs. Some study participants showed signs of the schizotypy condition known as social anhedonia, or the inability to experience pleasure from usually enjoyable activities, such as communicating and interacting with others. In the study, people with social anhedonia tended to have fewer friends on Facebook, communicated with friends less frequently and shared fewer photos.

Other study participants concealed significant portions of their Facebook profile before presenting them to researchers. These participants also showed schizotypy symptoms, known as perceptual aberrations, which are anomalous experiences of one's senses, and magical ideation, which is the belief that events with no physical cause-and-effect are somehow causally connected. Hiding Facebook activity also was considered a sign of higher levels of paranoia.

The study "Social Networking Profile Correlates to Schizotypy," was published in the journal Psychiatry Research.

Explore further: The joy is in the social hunt

Related Stories

The joy is in the social hunt

April 23, 2010

The popularity of social networking websites has grown dramatically in recent years. One of the most popular sites, Facebook.com, now boasts more than 350 million users worldwide. With so many people interacting with each ...

More sharing comes to Facebook with new apps

January 19, 2012

Facebook is adding a bevy of new applications to let users share everything from photos of what they cooked for dinner, to details on what they are wearing, to what concert they scored tickets to.

On Facebook, beauty is more than screen deep

April 23, 2012

Having attractive friends will make you more popular on Facebook, especially if you are a woman, according to a new study that takes Charles Darwin into the domain of cyber networking.

Does Facebook make you fat?

September 11, 2012

Time spent on social networking sites comes at the expense of other activities – including physical activity, new research by the University of Ulster has revealed. 

Recommended for you

People with alcohol dependency lack important enzyme

August 30, 2016

A research group under the leadership of Linköping University Professor Markus Heilig has identified an enzyme whose production is turned off in nerve cells of the frontal lobe when alcohol dependence develops. The deficiency ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.