Using Social Media to Explore Mental Health-Related Behaviors and Discussions among Young Adults

AbstractAbstract There have been recurring reports of online harassment and abuse among adolescents and young adults through Anonymous Social Networking websites (ASNs). We explored discussions related to social and mental health behaviors among college students, including cyberbullying on the popular ASN, Yik Yak. From April 6, 2016, to May 7, 2016, we collected anonymous conversations posted on Yik Yak at 19 universities in four different states. We found that prosocial messages were approximately five times as prevalent as bullying messages. Frequency of cyberbullying messages was positively associated with messages seeking emotional help. We found significant geographic variation in the frequency of messages offering supportive versus bullying messages. Across campuses bullying and political discussion were positively associated. Results suggest that ASN sites can be mined for real-time data about students’ mental health-related attitudes and behaviors. We discuss the implications for using this information in education and healthcare services.

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