What your social media posts are saying about your wellbeing

Writer Shona Hendley, explains what late-night Tweets and spontaneous Instagram posts might reveal about your mental health.

Are you Tweeting in the early hours of the morning? Perhaps you’ve posted on Facebook that you can’t sleep so you are having a glass of red? Well, according to research, you could be lonely or depressed. While many of us post regularly via different social media platforms, often without really thinking too much about it, they may not be as meaningless as you think.

In fact, these posts often determine more than just what a person is doing, they are also indicative of a possible mental illness. Clinical Psychologist, Dr Judith Locke said that “to a certain degree, anything a person does can reflect the state of their mind, with social media posts not being an exception.”

And research conducted by BMJ Open at the University of Pennsylvania, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) and Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research and the Georgia Institute of Technology seem to confirm Locke’s view. The three studies have all found a correlation between social media posts and our pattern of social media usage and a person’s mental health. Including signs of: loneliness, depression and even hostility in a person’s social media activity.

These are some of the factors they have said to look out for.


The study found a correlation between the participants that were lonely and an increase in swearing within their posts. For example, posts or even comments on a person’s social media account like:

“What the actual fuck.”

“No one deserves this shit.”

“What the fuck did I do?”

Can all be signs of loneliness within the person posting (especially if they don’t usually do this).

Subject matter and words used

Those research participants within the studies that were lonely or depressed were often very open and willing to share their emotions, feelings, needs and relationship problems via their posts. They often did this by outlining the problems using similar words or phrases. Some of the words commonly used in posts by those experiencing depression included: tears, cry and pain. For those people who were suffering loneliness they frequently used words like: miss, much and baby. And for those experiencing hostility, words like: hate, ugh and fuckin were common within their posts.

Researchers also noted that those who suffered depression were also most likely to use “more first-person singular pronouns.” So, words like I, my and me would be evident within a Tweet, post or even a comment on social media. It “suggest[s] a preoccupation with the self,” researchers noted. As well as commonly used words, often these posts would also refer to drug and alcohol use as well.

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The time of the post

When you post – namely, at day or at night is very important in identifying someone’s mental health status Dr Locke believes.

“If someone is posting about not being very happy, or being lonely at 11pm on a Saturday night for example, this may suggest that they are experiencing a degree of loneliness,” she told b+S.

Night time posting is in fact a common time for people to post if they are lonely or depressed. Often associated with difficulty sleeping, the posts can be anywhere from late night (11 pm) to the early morning (3 am) and will often refer to their sleep issues.

“1 am, can’t sleep so am drinking alone on the couch. FML.”

So, if you come across something like this on a friend’s Facebook, or even do this yourself, it could be a sign of loneliness.

How you scroll

Yep, even the way you scroll on your social media can be a sign of a mental health issue.

According to research if you are an active participant (someone who likes and comments on other people’s posts) you are more likely to be mentally healthy. But if you are one to passively scroll (i.e. don’t interact with the content) it could be a sign that you are in a more negative space.

Frequency of use

A study carried out by the University of Pittsburgh saw researchers questioning 1,787 adults aged between 19 and 32 about their use of the 11 most popular social media sites – Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn. They found that those who visited social media networks more than 58 times per week were three times more likely to feel lonely than those who only visited their social media nine times or less.

So, if you are one to have the green light, or word ‘active’ next to your name more often than not on social, it may be time to check in with yourself instead.