Sharing Feelings Online: Studying Emotional Well-Being via Automated Text Analysis of Facebook Posts

Front Psychol. 2015 Jul 23;6:1045. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01045. eCollection 2015.

Abstract

Digital traces of activity on social network sites represent a vast source of ecological data with potential connections with individual behavioral and psychological characteristics. The present study investigates the relationship between user-generated textual content shared on Facebook and emotional well-being. Self-report measures of depression, anxiety, and stress were collected from 201 adult Facebook users from North Italy. Emotion-related textual indicators, including emoticon use, were extracted form users' Facebook posts via automated text analysis. Correlation analyses revealed that individuals with higher levels of depression, anxiety expressed negative emotions on Facebook more frequently. In addition, use of emoticons expressing positive emotions correlated negatively with stress level. When comparing age groups, younger users reported higher frequency of both emotion-related words and emoticon use in their posts. Also, the relationship between online emotional expression and self-report emotional well-being was generally stronger in the younger group. Overall, findings support the feasibility and validity of studying individual emotional well-being by means of examination of Facebook profiles. Implications for online screening purposes and future research directions are discussed.

Keywords: cyberpsychology; emotional well-being; psychoinformatics; psychological assessment; psychological measurement; social networking sites.