Sam Frizell, Time Magazine, January 27, 2014
With its 230 million regular users, Twitter has become such a broad stream of personal expression that researchers are beginning to use it as a tool to dig into public health problems. Believe it or not, a scientist out there might actually care about the sandwich you ate for lunch—even if most of your followers don’t.
“Our attitude is that Twitter is the largest observational study of human behavior we’ve ever known, and we’re working very hard to take advantage of it,” explains Tyler McCormick of the Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences at the University of Washington.
What if, for example, an artificial intelligence model could scan your Twitter feed and tell you if you’re at risk for depression? And what if you could receive notices from third parties, for instance, that warned you that you may want to seek help, just based on an automated scan of your tweets? Eric Horvitz, co-director of Microsoft Research Redmond has helped pioneer research on Twitter and depression. He says that could one day be a possibility.