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Regular version of the site

Book chapter

Measuring Adolescents’ Well-Being: Correspondence of Naïve Digital Traces to Survey Data

P. 352-363.

Digital traces are often used as a substitute for survey data. However, it
is unclear whether and how digital traces actually correspond to the survey-based
traits they purport to measure. This paper examines correlations between selfreports
and digital trace proxies of depression, anxiety, mood, social integration
and sleep among high school students. The study is based on a small but rich
multilayer data set (N = 144). The data set contains mood and sleep measures,
assessed daily over a 4-month period, along with survey measures at two points
in time and information about online activity from VK, the most popular social
networking site in Russia. Our analysis indicates that 1) the sentiments expressed
in social media posts are correlated with depression; namely, adolescents with
more severe symptoms of depression write more negative posts, 2) late-night
posting indicates less sleep and poorer sleep quality, and 3) students who were
nominated less often as somebody’s friend in the survey have fewer friends on VK
and their posts receive fewer “likes.” However, these correlations are generally
weak. These results demonstrate that digital traces can serve as useful supplements
to, rather than substitutes for, survey data in studies on adolescents’ well-being.
These estimates of correlations between survey and digital trace data could provide
useful guidelines for future research on the topic.