Tweet life vs. street life: Exploring the gap between content and feelings

September 07, 2017

Twitter is an unreliable witness to the world's emotions, according to University of Warwick sociology expert Dr Eric Jensen.

In a new paper published today [7], Dr Jensen, Associate Professor in the University of Warwick's Department of Sociology, highlights the risks of assuming that Twitter accurately reflects real life.

With over 300 million monthly active users around the globe sharing their thoughts in 140 characters or less, Dr Jensen acknowledges that studies based on Twitter data are "particularly alluring" to researchers and the media. However, he cautions against this "big data gold rush," pointing out that there is no evidence that social media content shared on Twitter is a truthful reflection of how its users feel.

Twitter users have developed their own unique cultural behaviour, conversations and identities, which shape the ways in which they present their views online. Social convention, power relationships and identity influence online conversation just as much as off-line interactions, but in ways that are not yet fully understood.

Dr Jensen also highlights the problems of drawing broader conclusions from a sample of Twitter users. It has been proven in several studies that Twitter users are not representative of the general population. In just one example, men are much more likely to use Twitter than women. Prolific users who tweet many times a day may be over-represented in any sample dataset.

Commenting on his findings, Dr Jensen said: "Twitter users present only one side of themselves on social media, shielding their true feelings for good reasons, such as professional reputation. There is clearly a large gap between what people post on social media and how they really feel, but how exactly people manage the relationship between their offline and social media identities is still being uncovered.

He continued: "When researchers find themselves with easily accessible data, there is a temptation to apply those data to interesting research questions and populations - even when there are limitations in the representativeness of the sample.

Dr Jensen added: "Enthusiasm for accessing digital data should not outpace sound research methodology."

The paper, Putting the methodological brakes on claims to measure national happiness through Twitter: methodological limitations in social media analytics, is published in PLOS ONE today [7].
-end-
NOTES TO EDITORS:

On publication, the article will be available at: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0180080

A pre-publication copy of the paper is available on request to the University of Warwick Press Office.

CONTACT:
Sheila Kiggins
Media Relations Manager, Social Sciences University of Warwick s.kiggins@warwick.ac.uk
+44 (0) 7876 218166

University of Warwick

Related Social Media Articles from Brightsurf:

it's not if, but how people use social media that impacts their well-being
New research from UBC Okanagan indicates what's most important for overall happiness is how a person uses social media.

Social media postings linked to hate crimes
A new paper in the Journal of the European Economic Association, published by Oxford University Press, explores the connection between social media and hate crimes.

How Steak-umm became a social media phenomenon during the pandemic
A new study outlines how a brand of frozen meat products took social media by storm - and what other brands can learn from the phenomenon.

COVID-19: Social media users more likely to believe false information
A new study led by researchers at McGill University finds that people who get their news from social media are more likely to have misperceptions about COVID-19.

Stemming the spread of misinformation on social media
New research reported in the journal Psychological Science finds that priming people to think about accuracy could make them more discerning in what they subsequently share on social media.

Looking for better customer engagement value? Be more strategic on social media
According to a new study from the University of Vaasa and University of Cyprus, the mere use of social media alone does not generate customer value, but rather, the connections and interactions between the firm and its customers -- as well as among customers themselves -- can be used strategically for resource transformation and exchanges between the interacting parties.

Exploring the use of 'stretchable' words in social media
An investigation of Twitter messages reveals new insights and tools for studying how people use stretched words, such as 'duuuuude,' 'heyyyyy,' or 'noooooooo.' Tyler Gray and colleagues at the University of Vermont in Burlington present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on May 27, 2020.

How social media platforms can contribute to dehumanizing people
A recent analysis of discourse on Facebook highlights how social media can be used to dehumanize entire groups of people.

Social media influencers could encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines
Public health bodies should consider incentivizing social media influencers to encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines, say researchers.

Social grooming factors influencing social media civility on COVID-19
A new study analyzing tweets about COVID-19 found that users with larger social networks tend to use fewer uncivil remarks when they have more positive responses from others.

Read More: Social Media News and Social Media Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.