Scientists from the UK confirm Facebook updates are providing invaluable insight into mental health disorders.
There’s a prophetic Internet meme doing the rounds that states “You’re posting a lot of song lyrics and we’re all worried about you”. It holds the exact, plastic nature of mental health on social media. It’s welcoming, but your treatment only goes as far as a knock on the door. Regardless, the sharing of one’s spitting lows is somehow made more acceptable by its casual nature – you’re not voicing your problems to the faces of those you love, merely their blue thumbs. I’d much rather never mention anything is wrong in person, but I have previously wallpapered my Facebook timeline with William Blake-bombs until, eventually, someone asked how I was doing.
I told them “fine”. I wasn’t, but someone asked, and that was enough.
The sheer wave of that available emotion has now dripped over into the scientific realm, with the stuffed shirts at Cambridge University looking to transpose that hopeless data into the realm of professional mental health treatment.
“Facebook is hugely popular and could provide us with a wealth of data to improve our knowledge of mental health disorders such as depression and schizophrenia,” Dr Becky Inkster, the study’s lead author said. “Its reach is particularly broad, too, stretching across the digital divide to traditionally hard-to-reach groups including homeless youth, immigrants, people with mental health problems, and seniors.”
Facebook is the world’s most far-reaching photo/life/pity sharing site, so in gleaning an idea of the patient’s offline behaviour, and patterns in response to triggers, it could be invaluable.
Those who penned the study hope that the thousandfold status updates and nihilist memes may also serve as legitimate ammunition to bring to an intervention of someone pursued by that particular howling black dog. Frankly, any treatment for that, is good treatment.
The downside of course will be felt by the professionals who use this method to treat patients, as the sheer wave of memes (or millennial cover of 1980s romantic bars – yugh) that psychologists will have to pick through in order to form a cogent thesis, may push great minds closer to the edge.
Freud it is not, but work it may do.