Attitudes towards suicide attempts broadcast on social media: an exploratory study of Chinese microblogs.
ABSTRACT: Introduction. Broadcasting a suicide attempt on social media has become a public health concern in many countries, particularly in China. In these cases, social media users are likely to be the first to witness the suicide attempt, and their attitudes may determine their likelihood of joining rescue efforts. This paper examines Chinese social media (Weibo) users' attitudes towards suicide attempts broadcast on Weibo. Methods. A total of 4,969 Weibo posts were selected from a customised Weibo User Pool which consisted of 1.06 million active users. The selected posts were then independently coded by two researchers using a coding framework that assessed: (a) Themes, (b) General attitudes, (c) Stigmatising attitudes, (d) Perceived motivations, and (e) Desired responses. Results and Discussion. More than one third of Weibo posts were coded as "stigmatising" (35%). Among these, 22%, 16%, and 15% of posts were coded as "deceitful," "pathetic," and "stupid," respectively. Among the posts which reflected different types of perceived motivations, 57% of posts were coded as "seeking attention." Among the posts which reflected desired responses, 37% were "not saving" and 28% were "encouraging suicide." Furthermore, among the posts with negative desired responses (i.e., "not saving" and "encouraging suicide"), 57% and 17% of them were related to different types of stigmatising attitudes and perceived motivations, respectively. Specifically, 29% and 26% of posts reflecting both stigmatising attitudes and negative desired responses were coded as "deceitful" and "pathetic," respectively, while 66% of posts reflecting both perceived motivations, and negative desired responses were coded as "seeking attention." Very few posts "promoted literacy" (2%) or "provided resources" (8%). Gender differences existed in multiple categories. Conclusions. This paper confirms the need for stigma reduction campaigns for Chinese social media users to improve their attitudes towards those who broadcast their suicide attempts on social media. Results of this study support the need for improved public health programs in China and may be insightful for other countries and other social media platforms.
Project description:Introduction. Suicide has become a serious worldwide epidemic. Early detection of individual suicide risk in population is important for reducing suicide rates. Traditional methods are ineffective in identifying suicide risk in time, suggesting a need for novel techniques. This paper proposes to detect suicide risk on social media using a Chinese suicide dictionary. Methods. To build the Chinese suicide dictionary, eight researchers were recruited to select initial words from 4,653 posts published on Sina Weibo (the largest social media service provider in China) and two Chinese sentiment dictionaries (HowNet and NTUSD). Then, another three researchers were recruited to filter out irrelevant words. Finally, remaining words were further expanded using a corpus-based method. After building the Chinese suicide dictionary, we tested its performance in identifying suicide risk on Weibo. First, we made a comparison of the performance in both detecting suicidal expression in Weibo posts and evaluating individual levels of suicide risk between the dictionary-based identifications and the expert ratings. Second, to differentiate between individuals with high and non-high scores on self-rating measure of suicide risk (Suicidal Possibility Scale, SPS), we built Support Vector Machines (SVM) models on the Chinese suicide dictionary and the Simplified Chinese Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (SCLIWC) program, respectively. After that, we made a comparison of the classification performance between two types of SVM models. Results and Discussion. Dictionary-based identifications were significantly correlated with expert ratings in terms of both detecting suicidal expression (r = 0.507) and evaluating individual suicide risk (r = 0.455). For the differentiation between individuals with high and non-high scores on SPS, the Chinese suicide dictionary (t1: F 1 = 0.48; t2: F 1 = 0.56) produced a more accurate identification than SCLIWC (t1: F 1 = 0.41; t2: F 1 = 0.48) on different observation windows. Conclusions. This paper confirms that, using social media, it is possible to implement real-time monitoring individual suicide risk in population. Results of this study may be useful to improve Chinese suicide prevention programs and may be insightful for other countries.
Project description:BACKGROUND:A "concerning post" is a display of a user's emotional crisis on a social media platform. A better understanding of concerning posts is relevant to suicide prevention, but little is known about social media users' attitudes and responses to concerning posts. Military veterans in the United States are disproportionately affected by suicide, often use social media, and may have exposure to individuals with elevated suicide risk via concerning posts. OBJECTIVE:The objective of the study was (1) to obtain insight into whether and how US military veterans respond to members of their social network on social media (ie, "friends") who are experiencing substantial emotional distress, and (2) to identify potential interventions that could assist in users' response to concerning posts. METHODS:We recruited veterans through Facebook and conducted semistructured interviews with 30 participants between June and December 2017. We used a summary template for rapid analysis of each interview, followed by double-coding using a codebook based on topic domains from the interview guide. Members of the research team met regularly to discuss emerging patterns in the data, generate themes, and select representative quotes for inclusion in the manuscript. RESULTS:Veterans were reluctant to disclose emotional and health issues on Facebook, but they were open to reaching out to others' concerning posts. There was a complex calculus underlying whether and how veterans responded to a concerning post, which involved considering (1) physical proximity to the person posting, (2) relationship closeness, (3) existing responses to the post, and (4) ability to maintain contact with the person. Veterans desired additional training, backed by community-based veteran organizations, in how to respond to concerning posts from peers. CONCLUSIONS:There is a need to incorporate features that will help veterans effectively respond to concerning posts from peers into suicide prevention training and to expand access for veterans to such training.
Project description:Early identification and intervention are imperative for suicide prevention. However, at-risk people often neither seek help nor take professional assessment. A tool to automatically assess their risk levels in natural settings can increase the opportunity for early intervention.The aim of this study was to explore whether computerized language analysis methods can be utilized to assess one's suicide risk and emotional distress in Chinese social media.A Web-based survey of Chinese social media (ie, Weibo) users was conducted to measure their suicide risk factors including suicide probability, Weibo suicide communication (WSC), depression, anxiety, and stress levels. Participants' Weibo posts published in the public domain were also downloaded with their consent. The Weibo posts were parsed and fitted into Simplified Chinese-Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (SC-LIWC) categories. The associations between SC-LIWC features and the 5 suicide risk factors were examined by logistic regression. Furthermore, the support vector machine (SVM) model was applied based on the language features to automatically classify whether a Weibo user exhibited any of the 5 risk factors.A total of 974 Weibo users participated in the survey. Those with high suicide probability were marked by a higher usage of pronoun (odds ratio, OR=1.18, P=.001), prepend words (OR=1.49, P=.02), multifunction words (OR=1.12, P=.04), a lower usage of verb (OR=0.78, P<.001), and a greater total word count (OR=1.007, P=.008). Second-person plural was positively associated with severe depression (OR=8.36, P=.01) and stress (OR=11, P=.005), whereas work-related words were negatively associated with WSC (OR=0.71, P=.008), severe depression (OR=0.56, P=.005), and anxiety (OR=0.77, P=.02). Inconsistently, third-person plural was found to be negatively associated with WSC (OR=0.02, P=.047) but positively with severe stress (OR=41.3, P=.04). Achievement-related words were positively associated with depression (OR=1.68, P=.003), whereas health- (OR=2.36, P=.004) and death-related (OR=2.60, P=.01) words positively associated with stress. The machine classifiers did not achieve satisfying performance in the full sample set but could classify high suicide probability (area under the curve, AUC=0.61, P=.04) and severe anxiety (AUC=0.75, P<.001) among those who have exhibited WSC.SC-LIWC is useful to examine language markers of suicide risk and emotional distress in Chinese social media and can identify characteristics different from previous findings in the English literature. Some findings are leading to new hypotheses for future verification. Machine classifiers based on SC-LIWC features are promising but still require further optimization for application in real life.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Although China ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [FCTC] in 2005, the partial ban on tobacco advertising does not cover the internet. Weibo is one of the most important social media channels in China, using a format similar to its global counterpart, Twitter. The Weibo homepage is a platform to present products, brands and corporate culture. There is great potential for the tobacco industry to exploit Weibo to promote products. METHODS: Seven tobacco industry Weibo accounts that each had more than 5000 fans were selected to examine the content of Weibos established by tobacco companies or their advertising agents. RESULTS: Of the 12073 posts found on the seven accounts, 92.3% (11143) could be classified into six main themes: traditional culture, popular culture, social and business affairs, advertisement, public relations and tobacco culture. Posts under the theme of popular culture accounted for about half of total posts (49%), followed by 'advertisement' and 'tobacco culture' (both at 12%), 'traditional culture' and 'public relations' (both at 11%), and finally 'social and business affairs' (5%). 33% of posts included the words 'cigarette' or 'smoking' and 53% of posts included the tobacco brand name, indicating that tobacco companies carefully construct the topic and content of posts. CONCLUSIONS: Weibo is an important new online marketing tool for the Chinese tobacco industry. Tobacco industry use of Weibo to promote brands and normalize smoking subverts China's ratification of the WHO FCTC. Policy to control tobacco promotion needs reforming to address this widespread circumvention of China's tobacco advertising ban.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has posed an unprecedented challenge to governments worldwide. Effective government communication of COVID-19 information with the public is of crucial importance. OBJECTIVE:We investigate how the most-read state-owned newspaper in China, People's Daily, used an online social networking site, Sina Weibo, to communicate about COVID-19 and whether this could engage the public. The objective of this study is to develop an integrated framework to examine the content, message style, and interactive features of COVID-19-related posts and determine their effects on public engagement in the largest social media network in China. METHODS:Content analysis was employed to scrutinize 608 COVID-19 posts, and coding was performed on three main dimensions: content, message style, and interactive features. The content dimension was coded into six subdimensions: action, new evidence, reassurance, disease prevention, health care services, and uncertainty, and the style dimension was coded into the subdimensions of narrative and nonnarrative. As for interactive features, they were coded into links to external sources, use of hashtags, use of questions to solicit feedback, and use of multimedia. Public engagement was measured in the form of the number of shares, comments, and likes on the People's Daily's Sina Weibo account from January 20, 2020, to March 11, 2020, to reveal the association between different levels of public engagement and communication strategies. A one-way analysis of variance followed by a post-hoc Tukey test and negative binomial regression analysis were employed to generate the results. RESULTS:We found that although the content frames of action, new evidence, and reassurance delivered in a nonnarrative style were predominant in COVID-19 communication by the government, posts related to new evidence and a nonnarrative style were strong negative predictors of the number of shares. In terms of generating a high number of shares, it was found that disease prevention posts delivered in a narrative style were able to achieve this purpose. Additionally, an interaction effect was found between content and style. The use of a narrative style in disease prevention posts had a significant positive effect on generating comments and likes by the Chinese public, while links to external sources fostered sharing. CONCLUSIONS:These results have implications for governments, health organizations, medical professionals, the media, and researchers on their epidemic communication to engage the public. Selecting suitable communication strategies may foster active liking and sharing of posts on social media, which in turn, might raise the public's awareness of COVID-19 and motivate them to take preventive measures. The sharing of COVID-19 posts is particularly important because this action can reach out to a large audience, potentially helping to contain the spread of the virus.
Project description:BACKGROUND: As internet and social media use have skyrocketed, epidemiologists have begun to use online data such as Google query data and Twitter trends to track the activity levels of influenza and other infectious diseases. In China, Weibo is an extremely popular microblogging site that is equivalent to Twitter. Capitalizing on the wealth of public opinion data contained in posts on Weibo, this study used Weibo as a measure of the Chinese people's reactions to two different outbreaks: the 2012 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outbreak, and the 2013 outbreak of human infection of avian influenza A(H7N9) in China. METHODS: Keyword searches were performed in Weibo data collected by The University of Hong Kong's Weiboscope project. Baseline values were determined for each keyword and reaction values per million posts in the days after outbreak information was released to the public. RESULTS: The results show that the Chinese people reacted significantly to both outbreaks online, where their social media reaction was two orders of magnitude stronger to the H7N9 influenza outbreak that happened in China than the MERS-CoV outbreak that was far away from China. CONCLUSIONS: These results demonstrate that social media could be a useful measure of public awareness and reaction to disease outbreak information released by health authorities.
Project description:BACKGROUND:On January 1, 2019, a new regulation on the control of smoking in public places was officially implemented in Hangzhou, China. On the day of the implementation, a large number of Chinese media reported the contents of the regulation on the microblog platform Weibo, causing a strong response from and heated discussion among netizens. OBJECTIVE:This study aimed to conduct a content and network analysis to examine topics and patterns in the social media response to the new regulation. METHODS:We analyzed all microblogs on Weibo that mentioned and explained the regulation in the first 8 days following the implementation. We conducted a content analysis on these microblogs and used social network visualization and descriptive statistics to identify key users and key microblogs. RESULTS:Of 7924 microblogs, 12.85% (1018/7924) were in support of the smoking control regulation, 84.12% (6666/7924) were neutral, and 1.31% (104/7924) were opposed to the smoking regulation control. For the negative posts, the public had doubts about the intentions of the policy, its implementation, and the regulations on electronic cigarettes. In addition, 1.72% (136/7924) were irrelevant to the smoking regulation control. Among the 1043 users who explicitly expressed their positive or negative attitude toward the policy, a large proportion of users showed supportive attitudes (956/1043, 91.66%). A total of 5 topics and 11 subtopics were identified. CONCLUSIONS:This study used a content and network analysis to examine topics and patterns in the social media response to the new smoking regulation. We found that the number of posts with a positive attitude toward the regulation was considerably higher than that of the posts with a negative attitude toward the regulation. Our findings may assist public health policy makers to better understand the policy's intentions, scope, and potential effects on public interest and support evidence-based public health regulations in the future.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has affected more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. This disease poses an extraordinary challenge for public health systems because screening and surveillance capacity is often severely limited, especially during the beginning of the outbreak; this can fuel the outbreak, as many patients can unknowingly infect other people. OBJECTIVE:The aim of this study was to collect and analyze posts related to COVID-19 on Weibo, a popular Twitter-like social media site in China. To our knowledge, this infoveillance study employs the largest, most comprehensive, and most fine-grained social media data to date to predict COVID-19 case counts in mainland China. METHODS:We built a Weibo user pool of 250 million people, approximately half the entire monthly active Weibo user population. Using a comprehensive list of 167 keywords, we retrieved and analyzed around 15 million COVID-19-related posts from our user pool from November 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020. We developed a machine learning classifier to identify "sick posts," in which users report their own or other people's symptoms and diagnoses related to COVID-19. Using officially reported case counts as the outcome, we then estimated the Granger causality of sick posts and other COVID-19 posts on daily case counts. For a subset of geotagged posts (3.10% of all retrieved posts), we also ran separate predictive models for Hubei province, the epicenter of the initial outbreak, and the rest of mainland China. RESULTS:We found that reports of symptoms and diagnosis of COVID-19 significantly predicted daily case counts up to 14 days ahead of official statistics, whereas other COVID-19 posts did not have similar predictive power. For the subset of geotagged posts, we found that the predictive pattern held true for both Hubei province and the rest of mainland China regardless of the unequal distribution of health care resources and the outbreak timeline. CONCLUSIONS:Public social media data can be usefully harnessed to predict infection cases and inform timely responses. Researchers and disease control agencies should pay close attention to the social media infosphere regarding COVID-19. In addition to monitoring overall search and posting activities, leveraging machine learning approaches and theoretical understanding of information sharing behaviors is a promising approach to identify true disease signals and improve the effectiveness of infoveillance.
Project description:<h4>Objective</h4>Awareness and attentiveness have implications for the acceptance and adoption of disease prevention and control measures. Social media posts provide a record of the public's attention to an outbreak. To measure the attention of Chinese netizens to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a pre-established nationally representative cohort of Weibo users was searched for COVID-19-related key words in their posts.<h4>Methods</h4>COVID-19-related posts (N = 1101) were retrieved from a longitudinal cohort of 52 268 randomly sampled Weibo accounts (December 31, 2019-February 12, 2020).<h4>Results</h4>Attention to COVID-19 was limited prior to China openly acknowledging human-to-human transmission on January 20. Following this date, attention quickly increased and has remained high over time. Particularly high levels of social media traffic appeared around when Wuhan was first placed in quarantine (January 23-24, 8-9% of the overall posts), when a scandal associated with the Red Cross Society of China occurred (February 1, 8%), and, following the death of Dr Li Wenliang (February 6-7, 11%), one of the whistleblowers who was reprimanded by the Chinese police in early January for discussing this outbreak online.<h4>Conclusion</h4>Limited early warnings represent missed opportunities to engage citizens earlier in the outbreak. Governments should more proactively communicate early warnings to the public in a transparent manner.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Effective risk communication about the outbreak of a newly emerging infectious disease in the early stage is critical for managing public anxiety and promoting behavioral compliance. China has experienced the unprecedented epidemic of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in an era when social media has fundamentally transformed information production and consumption patterns. OBJECTIVE:This study examined public engagement and government responsiveness in the communications about COVID-19 during the early epidemic stage based on an analysis of data from Sina Weibo, a major social media platform in China. METHODS:Weibo data relevant to COVID-19 from December 1, 2019, to January 31, 2020, were retrieved. Engagement data (likes, comments, shares, and followers) of posts from government agency accounts were extracted to evaluate public engagement with government posts online. Content analyses were conducted for a random subset of 644 posts from personal accounts of individuals, and 273 posts from 10 relatively more active government agency accounts and the National Health Commission of China to identify major thematic contents in online discussions. Latent class analysis further explored main content patterns, and chi-square for trend examined how proportions of main content patterns changed by time within the study time frame. RESULTS:The public response to COVID-19 seemed to follow the spread of the disease and government actions but was earlier for Weibo than the government. Online users generally had low engagement with posts relevant to COVID-19 from government agency accounts. The common content patterns identified in personal and government posts included sharing epidemic situations; general knowledge of the new disease; and policies, guidelines, and official actions. However, personal posts were more likely to show empathy to affected people (?21=13.3, P<.001), attribute blame to other individuals or government (?21=28.9, P<.001), and express worry about the epidemic (?21=32.1, P<.001), while government posts were more likely to share instrumental support (?21=32.5, P<.001) and praise people or organizations (?21=8.7, P=.003). As the epidemic evolved, sharing situation updates (for trend, ?21=19.7, P<.001) and policies, guidelines, and official actions (for trend, ?21=15.3, P<.001) became less frequent in personal posts but remained stable or increased significantly in government posts. Moreover, as the epidemic evolved, showing empathy and attributing blame (for trend, ?21=25.3, P<.001) became more frequent in personal posts, corresponding to a slight increase in sharing instrumental support, praising, and empathizing in government posts (for trend, ?21=9.0, P=.003). CONCLUSIONS:The government should closely monitor social media data to improve the timing of communications about an epidemic. As the epidemic evolves, merely sharing situation updates and policies may be insufficient to capture public interest in the messages. The government may adopt a more empathic communication style as more people are affected by the disease to address public concerns.