Effect of Feedback on Drug Consumption Disclosures on Social Media

Deaths due to drug overdose in the US have doubled in the last decade. Drug-related content on social media has also exploded in the same time frame. The pseudo-anonymous nature of social media platforms enables users to discourse about taboo and sometimes illegal topics like drug consumption. User-generated content (UGC) about drugs on social media can be used as an online proxy to detect offline drug consumption. UGC also gets exposed to the praise and criticism of the community. Law of effect proposes that positive reinforcement on an experience can incentivize the users to engage in the experience repeatedly. Therefore, we hypothesize that positive community feedback on a user's online drug consumption disclosure will increase the probability of the user doing an online drug consumption disclosure post again. To this end, we collect data from 10 drug-related subreddits. First, we build a deep learning model to classify UGC as indicative of drug consumption offline or not, and analyze the extent of such activities. Further, we use matching-based causal inference techniques to unravel community feedback's effect on users' future drug consumption behavior. We discover that 84% of posts and 55% comments on drug-related subreddits indicate real-life drug consumption. Users who get positive feedback generate up to two times more drugs consumption content in the future. Finally, we conducted an anonymous user study on drug-related subreddits to compare members' opinions with our experimental findings and show that user tends to underestimate the effect community peers can have on their decision to interact with drugs.

Hitkul, Rajiv Ratn Shah, and Ponnurangam Kumaraguru. Effect of Feedback on Drug Consumption Disclosures on Social Media. Accepted at International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM) 2023.