Facebook Offers Clues To Mental Maladies

FILE- In this Thursday, July 16, 2009, file photo, a Facebook user logs into their account in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)


We know from perusing  Facebook pages who’s got too much time on their hands. But can we also gauge our friends’  mental state?

 A new study by researchers at the University  of Missouri suggests that what users include and even don’t include on Facebook can signal mental symptoms,  issues of concern.

“Therapists could possibly use social media activity to create a more complete clinical picture of a patient,” writes lead doctoral candidate Elizabeth Martin in a new study published  by the journal Psychiatric Research and reported by Medical News Today. “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.”

 Those who hold back  - communicating less frequently, sharing fewer pictures and having fewer Facebook friends  -  may be suffering from Social Anhedonia, an inability to “encounter happiness”  from what should be fun activities.  Excessive holding back might also be an indicator of paranoia, suggested the researchers. (So much for just being discrete and polite.)

“Perceptual Aberrations” is another malady picked up from  Facebook researches. It’s defined as a skewing of one’s “magical ideation and senses,”  causing  people to make illusionary links between experiences with no real cause-and-effect.       

Call us crazy (or romantic), but we like that malady better when it’s passed off as “karma.”