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Why your Instagram filter of choice could be a sign of depression


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Photo: Stocksy/Marko Milovanovic

If you have a love-hate relationship with Instagram, you’re not alone. While the filter-friendly platform is great for many things—like introducing you to buzzy brunch spots, helping you hygge-ify your home, or teaching you how to upgrade your healthy breakfast game—there’s a reason social media detoxes are gaining traction.

But whether you’re addicted to double-tapping quality content or you unfollow on the reg, new research says the undeniable power of Instagram may go beyond locating the latest and greatest slice of avocado toast: It can actually be a pretty accurate way to diagnose depression.

Depressed people more frequently used blue, grey, and dark tones, and generally avoided filters, but when they did use them, they predominantly preferred the black-and-white Inkwell option.

Researchers behind a new study published in EPJ Data Science designed a tool and created an algorithm that scanned through 43,950 images from 166 participants on Instagram (71 of whom were already diagnosed with depression), and flagged certain users as depressed. And not to scare you too much about the prospect of computers outsmarting humanity, but the tool was able to diagnose depression accurately 70 percent of the time—compared to just 42 percent for doctors.

The study’s tool detected a few key common traits among depressed people’s feeds, most of which had to do with color schemes: They more frequently used blue, grey, and dark tones, and generally avoided filters, but when they did use them, they predominantly preferred the black-and-white Inkwell option. They also tended to have more photos with a single person in them, while non-depressed people shared more group shots.

While seriously intuitive artificial intelligence may have a place in the medical future, for now it’s still best to seek a trained medical professional to talk things through. (And make sure it’s a human—not Wall-E.)

Need a #nofilter energy boost? Here’s the workout that may help improve symptoms of depression. And further proof you’re not alone: Here are four times Kristin Bell got real about her mental health, and here’s how Miranda Kerr got over her post-divorce blues.