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Tweets May Not Convey Users' Real Feelings

Tweets May Not Convey Users’ Real Feelings

A new study by University of Warwick sociologist Dr. Eric Jensen finds that Twitter is an unreliable witness to the world’s emotions.

With over 300 million monthly active users around the globe sharing their thoughts in 140 characters or less, Jensen acknowledges that studies based on Twitter data are “particularly alluring” to researchers and the media.

However, he cautions against this “big data gold rush,” pointing out that there is no evidence that social media content shared on Twitter is a truthful reflection of how its users feel.

Twitter users have developed their own unique cultural behavior, conversations, and identities, which shape the ways in which they present their views online.

Social convention, power relationships, and identity influence online conversation just as much as off-line interactions, but in ways that are not yet fully understood.

Jensen also highlights the problems of drawing broader conclusions from a sample of Twitter users.

He explains that several studies have discovered that Twitter users are not representative of the general population. In just one example, men are much more likely to use Twitter than women. Moreover, prolific users who tweet many times a day may be over-represented in any sample dataset.

Commenting on his findings, Jensen said, “Twitter users present only one side of themselves on social media, shielding their true feelings for good reasons, such as professional reputation.

There is clearly a large gap between what people post on social media and how they really feel, but how exactly people manage the relationship between their offline and social media identities is still being uncovered.

He continued, “When researchers find themselves with easily accessible data, there is a temptation to apply those data to interesting research questions and populations — even when there are limitations in the representativeness of the sample.

“Enthusiasm for accessing digital data should not outpace sound research methodology,” concludes Jensen.

Jensen’s paper appears in PLOS ONE.

Source: University of Warwick

Tweets May Not Convey Users’ Real Feelings

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Tweets May Not Convey Users’ Real Feelings. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 11 Sep 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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