How people tweet on their phones isn’t quite the same as how they tweet on their office or home computer. Phone tweets are all about me, me, me, according to a new study in the Journal of Communication.
A Goldsmiths, University of London sociologist teamed up with researchers from Bowdoin College and the University of Maine to analyze a total of 235 million tweets. Sources for the tweets, drawn from an API designed to pull random tweets from around the world, included mobile Twitter apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and iPad, Twitter’s web app, and the desktop TweetDeck app. They then examined the kind of language used in these tweets, looking at whether they used words like “I” and “me” or words like “they” and “them,” what kind of emotions the tweets contained, and whether they used language that fit gendered stereotypes.
They found that tweets sent from people’s phones tended to be more egocentric—people tweeted more about themselves than any other topics from mobile apps. They also used more negative language, indicating that users were more interested in keeping social media up-to-date with the bad stuff in their lives than neutral or positive events.
The researchers don't go so far as to explain why this is, but it makes sense. If you’re out and about, you’re more likely to pick up your phone and tweet about the infuriating interaction you had at the deli than you are to take part in a discussion about political events or link to a great magazine feature. Maybe people who tweet from their desktop all day are posting as part of their work duties (as most journalists do), skewing those tweets towards current events and discussion more than tweets about the self. The study also leaves open the possibility that Twitter’s web users are significantly different from their mobile users.
In addition, all the tweets, whether they were sent from mobile devices or desktop computers, skewed toward more stereotypically “masculine” language. The researchers defined "masculine" tweets as those using words like “aggression” and “competition,” rather than terms stereotypically associated with women, like “gentle” or “tender.” (This may be why Twitter’s algorithms classify many women as being male users.) While it's admittedly hard to imagine a scenario in which someone would feel the need to tweet about tenderness, the phenomenon could be worth a follow-up study.
[h/t: Pacific Standard]