Social media language can tell us a lot about people’s lives and where they live, according to researchers. They looked at 30 million Twitter posts from the United States and compared the language used in those posts to the living conditions in the areas they were from.
Associate Professor Lucas M. Bietti from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) says that how we use language shows something about ourselves and our living conditions. He worked on the study with postdoctoral fellow Eric Mayor from the University of Basel, and their findings are now published in the journal Heliyon.
The study found that people from ethnic minorities tend to show more signs of depression and lower adaptability in their language on Twitter. Adaptability refers to how well people deal with big changes, like losing their jobs. They also found that areas with more ethnic minorities and lower income levels tend to have clearer signs of depression and low adaptability in the language used in tweets.
Bietti and Mayor have previously studied the language used on Twitter in relation to the time of day messages are sent. They found that more positive language is used in the afternoon, when people are less busy and their emotions are generally stronger.
Looking at social media posts together can give us a picture of reality. Analyzing language patterns in social media posts can help us understand trends in mental health. This method lets us compare people’s moods in specific areas at different times and over time, especially when public health data are not available or not good enough.
The findings from this study can help guide health campaigns and social initiatives, especially in areas where living conditions are poorer. It can also help estimate the impact of significant events on mental health.