Can You Tell If Someone Is Depressed by Analyzing Their Instagram Filters?

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Does this Instagram filter make me looked depressed? Science says … maybe. A new study released this week from co-authors Andrew Reece and Christopher Danforth in the journal EPJ Data Science found that the content you post on Instagram, and how you choose to edit it, could be a possible indicator of your mental health.

Looking at over 40,000 posts from 166 people, the researches identified who in the sample group had been diagnosed with depression and who had not. From there, they used machine learning to analyze the ways posts varied between the two groups of people. They found that depressed people tend to filter their photos less often than people who are not. “Inkwell” — a filter that turns photos black-and-white — was the most popular filter used by depressed people, whose photos were more likely than their nondepressed peers to contain a face. By comparison, the “Valencia,” was popular among more mentally healthy users.

From the New York Times:

The researchers then used software to analyze each photo’s hue, color saturation and brightness, as well as the number of faces it contained. They also collected information about the number of posts per user and the number of comments and likes on each post.

Using machine-learning tools, Mr. Reece and Mr. Danforth found that the more comments a post received, the more likely it was to have been posted by a depressed participant. The opposite was true for likes. And depressed users tended to post more frequently, they found.

The researchers behind the study acknowledge that they had a small sample size, but are optimistic about what their results could mean for future research and real-world application in helping diagnose mental-health issues using Instagram. “Given that mental health services are unavailable or underfunded in many countries, this computational approach, requiring only patients’ digital consent to share their social media histories, may open avenues to care which are currently difficult or impossible to provide,” the study concluded.

Can You Tell If Someone’s Depressed Using Instagram Filters?