Seems a secret group with hidden motives has been quietly signing up to monitor dozens of prominent atheists on Twitter — I knew I was being followed! We even have a pic of the perps above! Clearly, they’re dangerous subversives. Well, before this turns into a massive scandal orchestrated from the Oval Office, it turns out the motive was not sinister. That’s University of Illinois psychology professor Jesse Preston and grad student co-conspirator Ryan Ritter. They’ve just wrapped an analysis of Twitter culture, in their case, atheist vs religious tweets. Here’s some highlights:
Science 2.0 — To identify Christian and atheist Twitter users, the researchers studied the tweets of more than 16,000 followers of a few prominent Christian and atheist personalities on Twitter. They analyzed the tweets for their emotional content (the use of more positive or negative words), the frequency of words (such as “friend” and “brother”) that are related to social processes, and the frequency of their use of words (such as “because” and “think”) that are associated with an analytical thinking style.
Overall, tweets by Christians had more positive and less negative content than tweets by atheists, the researchers report. A less analytical thinking style among Christians and more frequent use of social words were correlated with the use of words indicating positive emotions, the researchers said. Christians also were more likely than atheists to tweet about their social relationships, the results found.
“Whether religious people experience more or less happiness is an important question in itself,” the authors of the new analysis wrote. “But to truly understand how religion and happiness are related we must also understand why the two may be related.”
The authors hypothesize that people belonging to traditional religions orgs might feel more connected, more social and not as lonely, and thus might feel a little better. Humans don’t like isolation, real or imagined, even anti-social loners in prison can be punished with the threat of solitary confinement. So that sounds like a plausible, testable idea to me.