If you do pretty much anything online these days, you'll be prompted to share it with your social network of friends, family, creepy eStalkers, and the NSA. It's no surprise then that somebody is taking this treasure trove of free information we're spewing all over the Internet and using it to discern some interesting, surprising, but mostly terrifying things. Stuff like ...
#5. When Nations Will Collapse
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By cross-referencing the deluge of posts on various social media outlets against local news stories, surreptitiously intercepted telephone calls, and whatever swear words you use in front of your Kinect, workers at the CIA's Open Source Center in Virginia are able to assess the mood and relevance of virtually any place on Earth.
In other words, using social media, the CIA can identify whether social unrest is apparent in the whole of the community, or just the result of vocalization from a fringe minority with little genuine support for their cause.
Like moderators on the world's crappy message board.
In other other words, by reading our stupid Facebook updates, the feds are able to tell if the whole population is about to revolt, or if somebody just had a really shitty Hot Pocket and thought the Internet should know about it.
Spoiler: They're all shitty.
For example: While the OSC couldn't identify exactly when an uprising would occur in Egypt, Doug Naquin, the center's director, did successfully use the system to predict that "social media in places like Egypt could be a game-changer and a threat to the regime." Sound familiar? That was back in 2011. Surely you remember how that turned out: Something big happened and you turned your avatar green for two days, before replacing it with, like, a really cute selfie.
"Sorry, 'Arab Spring,' but I've got 'Kony 2012' to slacktivise."
#4. How Many Psychopaths Are Among Us
A recent paper from Cornell University found that psychopaths have a unique, discernible writing and speaking pattern:
"I found the journal; you need help."
"Sure, take the blender's side."
No, but seriously, after analyzing the speech and texts of 14 psychopathic and 38 non-psychopathic murderers, it was found that psychopaths are more likely to use filler words like "um," are more likely to use cause-and-effect words like "because," and are less likely to make mention of religion or family. Because uh ... um ... oh, right: It signifies their emotional detachment from society or whatever.
"Of course I avoid bringing up God. No one likes it when someone talks about themselves."
The study was then applied to Twitter: a bottomless online pit of rage, narcissism, and delusion. Surprise! They found psychopaths.
Over 3,000 Twitter users allowed their tweets to be examined via a personality test that classified their tweets with three traits: psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism. As an added incentive (like anybody needs more reward than "find out if you're a Twitter psycho!"), one lucky participant would be given an iPad, because sane or not, everyone needs their Candy Crush fix.
Based purely on their tweets, 41 users were classified as legitimate psychopaths. The real shocker here isn't that, according to reason and logic, some people on Twitter be crazy -- we could have clicked on pretty much any Trending Topic and told you that. The shocker was that most of those 41 results were later confirmed as possible psychopaths by more rigorous and reputable follow-up testing. You know what that means? Just glancing at somebody's Twitter feed and saying "sounds like a psycho" seems to be an actual viable method of diagnosis.
"It's almost as good of a filter as 'nice guy.'"
We can shorten that process even further, to one simple step: Do they follow Kanye West? Yes? Boom. Psychopath.
#3. When the Job Market Will Collapse
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In a study of a half-million social media users over two years of data, researchers were able to predict how the unemployment trend in the U.S. and Ireland would rise or fall -- just by analyzing how much people complained on their respective social media channels.
It was a lot of data.
Researchers analyzed tweets and status updates where people discussed income or career, and assigned each tweet a "mood score." So, for example, if scientists see a tweet like this ...
... they would assign that tweet a label like "anxious" or "lucky it was only one." (Not all science is hard, folks.) But by using this simple method, researchers found that they could predict something as dramatic as an increase in the unemployment rate. Sounds a little abstract, doesn't it? You could look out your window right now and predict an unemployment rate hike based on the number of hobos fighting over your recycling. Eventually, you would be proven right. But here's the crazy part: The system predicted that a rate hike would come to pass in four months. Pretty narrow window, right?
It happened in three.
And it wasn't a fluke: The findings held true in both the U.S. and Ireland.
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"Great job proving the Twitter theory. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts ..."
Now, to be clear, these weren't just people specifically talking about their work or bank accounts. Anything income, budget, or job related in the slightest was counted and quantified, and using nothing more than the information we accidentally spill out for fun on the Internet, scientists were able to calculate when we would lose our jobs to within a financial quarter.
Luckily, the same theory holds true in reverse: Supposedly when positive social media posts pop up, they could theoretically predict drops in the unemployment rate.
It's inversely related to the number of ironic scarves and horn-rimmed glasses.