What Does Your Facebook Profile Say About Your Psychological Health?

By David Cohen 

Can Facebook users’ activity on the social network provide windows into their souls? We won’t go that far, but a University of Missouri study did find that such activity could be used as indicators about psychological health.

Elizabeth Martin, a doctoral student in MU’s psychological science department in its College of Arts and Sciences, said psychologists and therapists could eventually turn to profiles on Facebook and other social networks as tools to aid their work, adding:

Therapists could possibly use social media activity to create a more complete clinical picture of a patient. 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 Facebook 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 psychological state.

Martin and her team conducted the study by asking participants to print their Facebook activity and correlating aspects of that activity with the degree to which they exhibited schizotypy, a range of symptoms including social withdrawal to odd beliefs.

She said some subjects showed signs of a schizotypy condition known as social anhedonia, or the inability to experience pleasure from usually enjoyable activities, such as communicating and interacting with others, adding that participants with social anhedonia tended to have fewer friends on Facebook, to communicate with friends less frequently, and to share fewer photos.

Martin added that some participants who hid significant portions of their Facebook profiles showed signs of schizotypy symptoms known as perceptual aberrations, or the belief that events with no physical cause-and-effect are somehow causally connected, as well as higher levels of paranoia.

Readers: What do you think your Facebook profile says about the state of your mental health?

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