Tuesday 21 November 2017

Engaged 'see tweet identity change'

By comparing tweets before and after people got engaged, a study looked at how people change their Twitter personas
By comparing tweets before and after people got engaged, a study looked at how people change their Twitter personas

Getting engaged leads to people coming across as less of an individual on Twitter while also "boasting" about their future, according to research.

A study followed 923 people who used "#engaged" to announce their new relationship status. It found that after people got engaged, tweets with the word "I" or "me" dropped by 69%.

They were replaced with "we" and "us", the research from the Georgia Institute of Technology shows.

By comparing tweets before and after, the study was able to determine how people changed their online personas following a proposal.

While some differences were split along gender lines, others identified how people alter the words they use on Twitter after they are engaged.

The research team looked at each person's tweets in the nine-month period before the engagement and 12 months afterwards (2 million tweets).

They were also compared to a random sampling of tweeters during the same time frame (12 million tweets), and there was barely any change within the control group.

Munmun De Choudhury, a Georgia Tech associate professor in the School of Interactive Computing, who led the study, said: "People began to paint themselves as a couple, rather than as individuals.

"They're going through a major change in life and it shows on social media as they adapt to society's expectations of their marital identity."

Ms De Choudhury and co-author Michael Massimi, a former postdoctoral fellow at Microsoft Research Cambridge, also noticed that engaged people are much more likely to think and tweet about the future.

Instead of using past-tense verbs, future-tense verbs surged by 62% after engagement.

Mr Massimi said: "People are more likely to post that they 'are going on a date night tonight' rather than tweeting that they already did so.

"They're looking forward to the future in their real lives and boasting about it on social media too."

Tweets using familial words such as "future in-laws" and "children" jumped by 219% after the proposal, although men tended to wait until after marriage to tweet family-based words, the research found.

The study, based on tweets in 2011, also noticed that men and women gush about each other differently.

The most frequent terms used by females when tweeting about their significant other were tied to emotion - for example, they "love" their "wonderful" fiance.

Men are more likely to use physical descriptors - words such as sexy, beautiful or gorgeous - when talking about their fiancee.

"Twitter can be a powerful tool that can mirror our thoughts and how we're actually feeling," said Ms De Choudhury, who has done similar social media studies on mothers and postpartum depression.

"This isn't based on what they told us they did. It's a reliable record, it's what they actually did."

This is the first empirical study of engagement in social media. It centred on the anthropological concept of liminality - a phase people undergo when they transition from one role in society to another.

The paper "She Said Yes!" - Liminality and Engagement Announcements on Twitter, was accepted and will be presented at iConference 2015 in Newport Beach, California, between March 24 and 27.

Press Association

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