As if the dangers of stepping into a pothole, wandering in front of a moving car or passing your potential soulmate on the street without even noticing him/her weren’t bad enough, now there’s yet another reason to detach your face from your phone’s Twitter app for a minute: It could be making you a more negative person.
A new study has found that tweets sent from phones are, on average, 25 percent more negative than tweets sent from computers, reports Time.
“Have they had a bad sandwich? Have they been stuck in bad traffic? They want to talk about it,” said Dhiraj Murthy, the study’s author, who has been conducting research on Twitter since its inception and has written a book about the social network.
It sort of makes sense if you think about it — if you’re dealing with a negative situation, you probably want to complain about it to someone, and you want to do it right now. Reaching for your phone might be one of your first instincts, and what better captive audience to complain to than all of your Twitter followers?
“It really matters whether you’re on a phone or whether you’re in front of your computer,” Murthy told Newsweek. “If people are on their phone, they tend to be thinking about ‘me me me,’ more than maybe if they’re at their desktop computers, [where] they’re more reflective when they’re reading a news article and tweeting it out.”
The study, published in the Journal of Communication, also found that tweets posted from smartphones tended to be more egotistical, reinforcing the stereotype of social media networks (and Twitter in particular) as an echo chamber of people who like the sound (or sight) of their own voice.
“Because everything has become more mobile, it’s reflecting more of what we’re doing in the moment,” Murthy said. “Some of the thoughts we had before that we weren’t communicating are now coming through our mobile devices, and there’s a certain egocentric bias emerging from it.”
The researchers found that tweets tended to be more negative and egocentric during certain parts of the day and specific days of the week.
People usually send the most negative tweets early in the morning and late at night. Overall, our egos are more or less in check during normal work hours, but tweets tend to get more self-centered as soon as we’re set free from the office.
“We leave work, we leave school and we start becoming more egocentric,” explained Murthy.
Maybe work makes us more ego-focused, or perhaps there’s a mysterious inverse relationship between egocentrism and football. Whatever the cause, people send their least egocentric tweets on Sunday mornings.
Murthy and his research team at Goldsmiths, University of London, analyzed 235 million tweets sent from North America during a six-week period in 2013. They used the Implicit Association Test, a word-analysis tool that’s often used in social psychology to identify preferences and biases, to examine specific word associations that appeared in the messages.
The researchers looked for keywords associated with egocentricity (including my, me, mine and self) and negativity (like pain, grief and agony), and noted the times of day when people tweeted and the device used to send the messages (laptops, tablets, PCs or smartphones).
(Image via MTV.)