Social Media and Identity

In our March meeting we discussed the digital diaries results! It’s really exciting to continue with this project and also think about how we will disseminate the study findings in an exciting way to make sure young people will read them.

Next we discussed a case where Facebook has been using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to scan accounts for people at-risk of depression and self-harm since 2017. These AI algorithms crunch huge amounts of data and look for patterns in users’ comments, likes, and even photo filters. While the specific details of the algorithm are undisclosed, if Facebook decides that someone is at “imminent risk” of depression and self-harm then they will alert local emergency responders – typically the police, who may visit the person for a wellness check. Last year Facebook alerted local emergency responders over 3,500 times. We answered questions such as: What are the ethical issues that arise from this case study? What are the benefits of this programme? We also discussed the types of methodologies that would be most interesting/useful to have in measuring this topic.

We also had a conversation about identity out in the sun. We thought that identity is what you think/do, and connected to your values (and being a moral agent). We had an interesting discussion about whether you you without your values? In general, we decided that identity is changing across time, context and with different people. Your memories are part of you (even though they might be inaccurate, they are still part of your story). We agreed that we are most truly ourselves when we are with our friends (compared to when we are with our family). However, in general we felt our identity is just different with different people. For example, someone said “everybody is fake online” and that you only share the good parts of your life.

We discussed identity and mental health. We decided that mental health impacts how you behave, but its impact on identity depends on what kinds of mental health we are discussing. For example, Alzheimer’s disease has more impact vs dyslexia for some people but not for others. It is important to note that some people find their MH identity empowering.

Finally, we discussed what types of scenarios would be most helpful to explore these questions of identity in. We decided that school would be most important, followed by home and then online. At school, your identity in the classroom is highly dependent on the teacher. If you don’t like the teacher, then part of your identity becomes “I don’t like this subject”. I failed on this test could lead to “I’m not academic” or “I will try harder” or “I will never be a doctor.”