Social Media Core

About the Core

The Social Media Core aims to lead the transformation of current social science and health research at UofSC by integrating data science and social media analysis to understand health issues and human behavior. This core will host a social computing lab for social media applications including collection, cleaning, and analysis of large-scale social media data sets. To promote interdisciplinary efforts, the core will hold workshops and speaker series to facilitate presentation, demonstration, and discussion of how social media data can be explored across a wide range of disciplines. The professional development and academic training activities will include certificates, new courses, and a new Master program in the longer term. In addition, the core will facilitate and produce collaborative research proposals with health science researchers and clinicians and seek external funding opportunities from federal and other agencies. The Social Media Core will be co- directed by Drs. Amir Karami (CIC) and Brie Turner-McGrievy (ASPH) and consists of strong expertise in social medical analytics, social networks, and health disparities.

Activity 1

In the United States of America, it is estimated that there are more than 11 million lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. However, as LGBT people face stigma and discrimination, they may be reluctant to disclose their information, introducing difficulties in studying this population’s health. As a result, studies often rely on small-scale samples, making it critical for future work in understanding LGBT health to expand towards larger samples. During the last decade, social media has grown into a major platform for individuals. The goal of this project is to detect and investigate a large set of health-related tweets posted by LGBT people. The paper identifies and compares the health topics shared by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals on social media.

Activity 2

Poor diet is a major contributor to the leading causes of chronic diseases and death in the United States, including coronary heart disease, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and stroke. Adults who eat a healthy diet live longer and have a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. However, most Americans do not have a healthy diet. To better characterize and monitor US diet patterns in real-time, new sources of information need to be identified and integrated, and novel monitoring techniques need to be developed. It is essential to collect and analyze larger samples to advance knowledge and understanding of public health. Yet, traditional survey methods are expensive, difficult to deploy instantly, and fail to sample hard-to-reach populations and minorities. In contrast, these groups heavily use social media. Social media chronicles the lives of a population, recording their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors on a wide variety of topics. By analyzing social media, we can gain new insights into public health. In this project, we explore dietary patterns on social media and investigate the association between social media discussions and other factors such as socioeconomic one.

Activity 3

It is widely acknowledged by researchers that social bots occupy diverse social media platforms. Defined as software programs that automatically produce content and emulate human behavior, these bots exhibit political and economic influence on an international scale. For instance, it has been demonstrated that social bots manipulate political discourse, affect stock trading and increase the spread of misinformation and disinformation. Social bots also generate content on different health issues such as vaccines. This project detects and analyzes health-related social comments created by social bots.

Faculty

Amir Karami, Ph.D.

Core Co-Lead

Dr. Amir Karami’s research focuses on big data and text mining, medical and health informatics, data science, social computing/social network analysis and IT security in Web, mobile and social networks.

Dr. Turner-McGrievy’s research focuses on discovering ways to help people eat healthier, lose weight, and prevent chronic disease. To achieve this goal, she explores ways to use emerging technology to assist with dietary self-monitoring, physical activity tracking, and provision of social support. In addition, her research focuses on dietary approaches that do not require dietary self-monitoring, such as the vegan and vegetarian diets.

Dr. Monroe’s research interests center on how to best harness technologies to effectively promote and measure physical activity, as well as to effectively deliver behavioral weight control in adults. She has a particular focus on exploring strategies to best foster social support for these purposes.

Dr. Ehsan Mohammadi’s research focuses on data analytics, online information behavior, scholarly communication, information visualization and health informatics. In particular, he explores how social web data can be useful in shaping the scholarly information ecosystem. Mohammadi is also interested in the information-seeking behaviors of patients and the challenges in online environments to provide appropriate solutions or design useful web applications.

Shan Qiao, Ph.D.

Core Member

Dr. Qiao’s academic training is in sociology, anthropology and public health and her research projects use both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Her interests are in HIV prevention and treatment in the context of global health, as well as women living with HIV/AIDS in South Carolina.

Spencer Moore, Ph.D., MPH

Core Member