WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Christian users of Twitter tweet more positive statements than the critical language used by atheist users of the popular social media platform.
University of Illinois graduates Ryan Ritter, Ivan Hernandez and psychology professor Jesse Preston conducted a computer analysis of nearly two million tweets. Their study found that Christians use fewer negative words and are more likely to talk about their social relationships than atheists on Twitter. Their findings were reported in the journal of Social Psychology & Personality Science.
To identify Christian and atheist Twitter users, the researchers analyzed the tweets of more than 16,000 followers of a few prominent Christian and atheist personalities on Twitter. They studied the tweets for their emotional content, such as the use of positive versus negative words, as well as the frequency of words such as “friend” and “brother” used in social situations.
Overall, they found that Christians made more positive statements and less negative ones than atheists. Believers used more social words related to positive emotions and made less analytical statements.
“If religious people are indeed happier than nonreligious people, differences in social support and thinking style may help to explain why,” said Ryan Ritter.
Ritter told The Christian Post that this recent study follows logically with past studies which found that social connectedness is related to higher well-being.
“Religious communities are very social,” said Professor Preston. “Just being a member of a religious group connects people to others, and it may be this social connection that can make people happier.”
“On the other hand, atheists had a more analytical thinking style in their tweets than Christians, which at extremes can make people less happy.”
According to past Pew Research Center studies, 15 percent of online adults use Twitter, with 8 percent using the service on a typical day. African-Americans, young adults, and mobile users stand out for their high rates of Twitter usage.