Does your Twitter language mirror national stereotypes?

Does your Twitter language mirror national stereotypes?
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A new study examined the Twitter language used in almost forty million tweets, and suggests that they mirrored Canadian and American national stereotypes.

The analysis of Twitter language showed that Canadians are typically polite on Twitter, while Americans are negative and assertive. Even if the national stereotypes are inaccurate, they appear to be reflected on Twitter.

Does Twitter language reflect reality?

According to the study, Canadians were more positive on Twitter using words such as:

  • Great
  • Good
  • Thanks
  • Amazing
  • Happy

In contrast, American Twitter users used more negative words such as:

  • Hate
  • Miss
  • Mad
  • Feel
  • Swear
  • Tired

Americans preferred emojis, whereas Canadians preferred emoticons. Americans also used more netspeak like ‘lol’, ‘idk’, and ‘af’.

Bryor Snefjella, the lead author of the study and graduate student in the Reading Lab in McMaster’s Department of Linguistics and Languages, said: “It’s tempting to think that Canadians tweet more nicely than Americans because they really are more nice than Americans. But when we put all the data together, it suggests that something more complicated is happening.”

Canadian and American national stereotypes

he says. The wrinkle is that other studies which have surveyed large numbers of Canadians and Americans have consistently shown that such national stereotypes are not accurate. There isn’t any hard evidence to support that an average American’s and average Canadian’s personality traits are different.

Daniel Schmidtke, co-author of the study and a post-doctoral researcher at McMaster, added: “The Twitter behaviour we observe doesn’t actually reflect the real underlying personality profile of an average American or Canadian.”

The team argues that their results show an identity construction strategy in action. This means that Canadians and Americans may create their national character stereotype through their language use.

The researchers hope to study different sets of countries in the future to assess national stereotypes in Twitter language further.

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