Tracking With Twitter: You Are What You Tweet
Reported October 2011
BALTIMORE (Ivanhoe Newswire)--Everyday 200 million people use Twitter to send out tweets on everything from politics, to the weather, to the latest Hollywood gossip. But there could be more to Twitter than just a random flood of chit-chat. We’ll tell you how your tweets are being tracked, revealing some surprising patterns.
Whether you’re sending one or reading one--everyone has their own reasons for using Twitter.
"A lot of times I read things from the Hill, the White house, Betsey Johnson’s blog, I check into for fun,” one Twitter user told Ivanhoe.
"I used to tweet on something funny that happened to me, or unusual, a movie I saw that struck me as interesting or a book I read,” another tweeter confessed.
Millions of people use Twitter each day to comment on anything in 140 characters or less. Now, computer scientists at Johns Hopkins University are putting all those tweets to good use and tracking public health trends through Twitter.
"There’s a lot of different patterns we were able to uncover, so for example we were able to track the influenza rate in the United States over time just by counting how many times people are talking about the flu,” Mark Dredze, Ph.D., a computer scientist at Johns Hopkins University told Ivanhoe.
Researchers took two billion tweets and used computer software to filter out 1.5 million tweets that only referred to health issues – uncovering unique patterns in public health. Tweets about allergies, Benadryl, and stuffy noses, revealed an allergy season starting earlier in warmer states and later in the Midwest and Northeast
"We were able to find things like states that have higher cancer rates also had more people tweeting about tobacco smoke,” Dr. Dredze explained.
And that's not all.
"States that had more tweeting in general about health problems, so people who had more health problems, were also states that have poorer access to health care coverage,” Dr. Dredze added.
Researchers say revealing health trends may help public officials track diseases better, and get health advice out sooner. So, keep the tweets coming.
"I tweet from time to time, I like to tweet about what's going on in the world,” one Twitter user concluded.
Trendy tweets, that actually do some good.
Click here to Go Inside This Science and View Video or contact:
Mark Dredze, PhD
Johns Hopkins University
Tracking With Twitter: You Are What You Tweet!
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