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Harvard Researchers Can Tell If You're Depressed Just By Looking At Your Instagram Photos

MIT engineers have created an algorithm that can tell if you're depressed just by looking at your Instagram photos.

Andrew Reece at Harvard University and Chris Danforth at the University of Vermont published a paper that suggests that there is a correlation between color usage and mental state, as found in people's Instagram photos. People who were depressed used filters and posted images that contained darker and grayer colors than those posted by those without the mental illness. “When depressed participants did employ filters, they most disproportionately favored the ‘Inkwell’ filter, which converts color photographs to black-­and-­white images,” Reece and Danforth said in the study. They also noted that Valencia was used more by non-depressed individuals, as it lightens photos. Researchers analyzed 170 workers from Amazon's Mechanical Turk service that had Instagram accounts and asked them to complete a series of questionnaires including a clinical depression survey. Researchers then chose 100 photographs for each user and asked them to rate them on a scale from 0 to 5 how interesting, happy, or sad the photos were.The photos were also categorized by by hue, saturation, along with likes and the number of faces in each. The found that increased hue and decreased brightness and saturation predicted depression. They also found that healthy and depressed individuals used Instagram filters differently. Apparently, depressed people were found to less likely use filters at all, #NoFilter. The algorithm looked at images posted by 100 individuals and it was able to correctly identify 70 percent of those with depression. It did categorize people as mroe healthy, so it is not a perfect algorithm. It is impossible to assign one characteristic to depression, since everyone is different. Even clinical questionnaires have their flaws and medical professionals are not 100% accurate. But, what is interesting is the fact that there is some evidence to suggest researchers and analysts can predict a lot about you just based on what you share on social media networks. “More generally, these findings support the notion that major changes in individual psychology are transmitted in social media use, and can be identified via computational methods,” they wrote. Via MIT Technology Review Related: What do you think? Share with us your thoughts in the comments below.