Happy Twits

“Boy, am I hungover!” Truthfully, as I’m writing this, I don’t yet know the outcome of our federal election. So I can’t actually predict how I’ll be feeling when this blog is posted on Tuesday morning. I suspect I’ll be tired, having stayed up past my bedtime for the voting results and speeches. And yes, maybe I really will be suffering the wrath of grapes, either from toasting a victory… or from trying to drown my sorrows.

I can guarantee, though, that social media channels will be humming like a high-powered jackhammer on Tuesday morning. Almost everyone will have something to say about the election results, whether positive or negative.

Believe it or not, that distinction makes a difference when it comes to the staying power of a post.

And you know I have a research study to back this up, don’t you? Computer scientists at the University of California just released an analysis of almost 20 million tweets. The messages were filtered through an automatic sorting program and assigned scores of positivity or negativity. So, for instance, “Pedicures are beautiful #footfetish” is assigned to the positive group, while “Over-boiled spinach is the bolus of Satan” gets put with the negatives. (Note: These are fabricated examples and are not extracted from actual study data.)

The researchers then looked at what happened to the tweets, and their retweets, over time. (Wow, now there’s a sentence that would fail you in English in 1999.) They found that positive messages did tend to spread more slowly than negative ones. But they were also shared and favourited more. Eventually, positive tweets reach more people than negative ones.

The researchers call this positive bias. You may recall a study I reported on back in March that found that languages around the world are universally skewed to the positive. Whether we’re writing or speaking or composing lyrics, we refer to flowers and sunshine more often than doom and gloom.

Nice to know we have a natural urge to share positivity. And it’s such an easy good deed: Click “Retweet”; make your followers happy. On that note, I just made a point of logging onto Twitter, saw something positive, and retweeted it.

You’re welcome.

Flowers and sunshine.

Flowers and sunshine.

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