Facebook & Instagram Can Now Track Your Mental Health

And it’s a little creepy.

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We’re now officially living in a real life episode of Black Mirror. Turns out, all that sharing and posting on social media is creating data that can track our emotions and possibly diagnose depression. A new report published in EPJ Data Science suggests that robots and artificial intelligence are able to track your mental health based upon your Instagram photographs, likes, comments and filters.

According to the research, non-depressed individuals tend to use filters on their photos, compared to those with depression who favour either black-and-white filters or no filters at all. Depressed individuals also tend to post more often, receive more comments than likes and post more photos of/with other people.

These findings are far from conclusive, but demonstrate how machines might be more efficient at detecting mental health problems than medical professionals.

But the tracking of human emotions through social media does come with some controversial side effects. Just a few months ago The Australian reported that Facebook has been using algorithms to target advertising to users as young as 14, based upon their emotional state and vulnerability.

More recently, Facebook filed a patent for a system that will allow the social media platform to analyse emotions by using the front facing camera on any laptop or smartphone and customise the feed accordingly. And although a Facebook spokesperson has made it clear a patent doesn’t necessarily mean this function will be implemented, the mere mention of it is extremely creepy.

I guess now that social media data can now be used to screen people’s mental health, living in an increasingly digitised society now comes with a few alarming catches.