Tweeting about sexism can improve a woman’s well-being as it has the potential to let them express themselves in ways that feel empowering, according to a new study.
“We know women can be badly affected by experiences of sexism and that responding publicly can be stressful and risky,” said Dr. Mindi Foster of Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada, lead author of the study.
She noted the study “examined whether using Twitter to respond to sexism could be done in a public way without any negative effects to their well-being.”
For the study, 93 female undergraduate students were randomly assigned to one of three groups. Over a three-day period, all the women received information regarding topical issues around sexism in politics, the media, and in universities.
One group was required to tweet publicly, the second group was required to tweet privately, while the third group did not tweet at all. The women received no instructions regarding the number or the content of tweets.
All participants completed mood questionnaires and wellbeing measures after they tweeted. Tweets were also analyzed for linguistic and emotional content.
The researchers identified a variety of emotions, including anger, discontent, sarcasm, shock, surprise and sadness. The most common combination was surprise and discontent, they reported, referring to one tweet: “Never knew there was this much sexism in politics! It’s so disturbing! Shocked disgusted.”
The researchers’ analysis showed that the group of women who tweeted publicly displayed feelings of increased wellbeing by the third day. Neither of the other two groups showed any changes in wellbeing.
“We know that popular online campaigns, such as EverydaySexism, have empowered women to speak out and share their experiences,” Foster said. “However, this study demonstrates how tweeting publicly has the potential to improve women’s wellbeing.”
She noted that more research is needed to understand whether “this form of collective action has any further health benefits.”
The study, published in the British Journal of Social Psychology, was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.