Social media is a bizarre phenomenon that’s only getting more strange over time. Think about it, we’re so tightly wired with other human beings that we know exactly what’s going on in their lives. So much so, researchers think they can use Twitter to track HIV outbreaks.
How? Mostly because we tend to overshare on Twitter. Here’s what the study found, according to Mashable:
Researchers collected more than 550 million tweets between May 26 and Dec. 9, 2012, and developed an algorithm to find phrases including words such as “sex” and “get high.” They then plotted those tweets on a map and ran statistical models to check if the locations matched areas where HIV cases had been reported. They found a significant relationship between those tweets and locations with high numbers of reported cases.
The main downfall of the study is that they had to use older HIV data, so this isn’t 100% accurate. But it does mean that you can use social media to track risky behavior and potentially act to reduce the consequences.
That’s important because part of reducing the overall cases of HIV and AIDS, not to mention other sexually transmitted diseases, is finding the infected and keeping them from infecting other people. Any data public health officials can use to do that can cut down on infection and overall damage to public health.
Besides, it’s really funny to tell your friends Twitter is predicting they’ll get AIDS. Although admittedly a lot less funny if they do actually get AIDS. Maybe we should set up a tweetbot reminding people to use condoms?