CS Colloquium: Munmun De Choudhury (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Employing Social Media to Improve Mental Health: Harnessing the Potentials and Avoiding the Pitfalls
A popular form of web data — social media data — is being increasingly used to computationally learn about and infer the mental health states of individuals and populations. Despite being touted as a powerful means to shape interventions and impact mental health recovery, little do we understand about the theoretical, domain, and psychometric validity of this novel information source, or its underlying biases, when appropriated to augment conventionally gathered data, such as surveys and verbal self-reports. This talk presents a critical analytic perspective on the pitfalls of social media signals of mental health, especially when they are derived from “proxy” diagnostic indicators, often removed from the real-world context in which they are likely to be used. Then, to overcome these pitfalls, this talk presents results from two case studies, where computational algorithms to glean mental health insights from social media were developed in a context-sensitive and human-centered way, in collaboration with domain experts and stakeholders. The first of these case studies, a collaboration with a health provider, focuses on the individual-perspective, and reveals the ability and implications of using social media data of consented schizophrenia patients to forecast relapse and support clinical decision-making. Scaling up to populations, in collaboration with a federal organization and towards influencing public health policy, the second case study seeks to forecast nationwide rates of suicide fatalities using social media signals, in conjunction with health services data. The talk concludes with discussions of the path forward, emphasizing the need for a collaborative, multi-disciplinary research agenda while realizing the potential of web data in health — one that incorporates methodological rigor, ethics, and accountability, all at once.
Bio: Munmun De Choudhury is an Associate Professor of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech. Dr. De Choudhury is best known for laying the foundation of a line of research that develops computational techniques to responsibly and ethically employ social media in understanding and improving our mental health. To do this work, she adopts a highly interdisciplinary approach, combining social computing, machine learning, and natural language analysis with insights and theories from the social, behavioral, and health sciences. Dr. De Choudhury has been recognized with the 2021 ACM-W Rising Star Award, 2019 Complex Systems Society – Junior Scientific Award, over a dozen best paper and honorable mention awards from the ACM and AAAI, and extensive coverage in popular press like the New York Times, the NPR, and the BBC. Earlier, Dr. De Choudhury was a faculty associate with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, a postdoc at Microsoft Research, and obtained her PhD in Computer Science from Arizona State University. When not working, she loves to cook, decorate, entertain, and play armchair social scientist.