If you came down with the flu in the last six weeks — and mentioned the fact on Twitter or Facebook — you’re not alone.
Since the beginning of December, there have been 626,379 mentions of flu on those two services, according to sentiment analysis firm Crimson Hexagon. That’s a 2,336% increase on the previous month, with flu mentions spiking in early January.
Of those, fully 40% of the posts included the phrase “I have the flu.” That represents more than 250,000 Twitter or Facebook users with the dreaded winter bug.
Another 10% of users reported their friends or family had the flu. That kind of post peaked more recently, on Jan. 13.
The good news: Overall mentions of flu appear to be dropping precipitously. Either we’re all getting better, or we’ve stopped posting about our condition.
According to these figures, Twitter is the service we’re more likely to turn to when sick. It was the source for 90% of Crimson Hexagon’s mentions.
This has been an unusually rough flu season, especially on the East Coast — and technology has been in the forefront of determining just how bad it is. Google.org, in partnership with the CDC, has noted a spike in searches for flu-related topics that far outpaces the last seven years.
The problem appears just as great on the other side of the Atlantic. In the UK, 47% of tweets and Facebook posts about the flu were from someone who had it. (Those figures also include cases of norovirus, which is particularly virulent in Europe this winter.)
Social media has been used to predict the opening weekend box office takings for movies; it has been less successful when it comes to predicting elections.
But is it reliable when it comes to the spread of disease? Give us your take in the comments.