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

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.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Does Facebook make you fat?

Sep 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. 

More sharing comes to Facebook with new apps

Jan 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.

The joy is in the social hunt

Apr 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 ...

Recommended for you

Controlling childbirth pain tied to lower depression risk

6 hours ago

Controlling pain during childbirth and post delivery may reduce the risk of postpartum depression, writes Katherine Wisner, M.D., a Northwestern Medicine® perinatal psychiatrist, in a July 23 editorial in Anesthesia & An ...

How children categorize living things

15 hours ago

How would a child respond to this question? Would his or her list be full of relatives, animals from movies and books, or perhaps neighborhood pets? Would the poppies blooming on the front steps make the list or the oak tree ...

Preschoolers can reflect on what they don't know

15 hours ago

Contrary to previous assumptions, researchers find that preschoolers are able to gauge the strength of their memories and make decisions based on their self-assessments. The study findings are published in ...

User comments