Twitter, do I have AIDS?

Okay, so no. Twitter has not come out with a new update that features real-time HIV testing. However, according to, Twitter can be used to predict HIV outbreaks across the U.S.


Actually, it’s not. And it’s not because people are tweeting about the various STDs they’ve contracted. A team of geniuses over at UCLA examined 550 million tweets between the dates of May 26 and Dec. 9 of 2012. Using an algorithm, they were able to find phrases using the words “sex” and “get high”. They then mapped those tweets and compared them with HIV reports from the area, and found there was a significant correlation between those tweets and the number of reported HIV outbreaks. They did use public data from 2009 for that part, but it’s still impressive, eh?

Sean Young, co-director of the Center for Digital Behavior, said that “[this] is the first [study] to suggest that Twitter can be used to predict people’s health-related behaviors and as a method for monitoring HIV risk behaviors and drug use.” We often think of Twitter and Facebook as just social media outlets for creepy virtual stalking or obnoxious marketing techniques (or at least I do). But now, thanks to the nerds at UCLA, it can be used for so much more! Sure, we could use it for very useful things like flu outbreaks, drug-use prevention, and even relationship predictions. But let’s be real: I’m a college student looking for a good spring break spot. Based off the findings of Twitter’s study, I know now that I will not be visiting Washington DC, Delaware, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Those places are just hot-beds for STDs…

Of course, I’m being facetious. 

But really, this study could be a break through. Our lives revolve around social media these days; a lot of people even rely on Twitter for news. Why not take advantage of all the users posting about their sex life and drug use? Some people may argue that using people’s tweets like that is invasive. My counter-argument for that is this: THEY POSTED ABOUT DOING DRUGS AND HAVING SEX ON THE INTERNET. It’s fair game. People keep their followers updated on every detail of their lives these days, even the sex and drugs we don’t care to read about. I’m just glad someone out there is making use of the shit I intentionally ignore on my feed.


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