Mean tweeters beware: posting mean tweets may be the most recent indicator of heart disease, says a recent study released by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. The study was headed by Johannes Eichstaedt, a student at Penn State, and published by the journal of Psychological Science. Essentially, what the study revealed is that those whose tweets reveal a negative disposition in their authors, also reveal a possible lack of emotional control and a greater risk of heart disease.
People who use social media to vent, as in the increasingly popular “Mean Tweets” segment of The Jimmy Kimmel Show, demonstrate behavior akin to smoking. The study has provided insight into an individual’s potential health problems, but there is a bigger picture. The study also claims that, not only will tweets show information about the individual, but they are also indicative of a society’s health. In counties where there are higher numbers of negative tweets, including frowning faces and flat-out insults, the entire population has a higher risk of heart-related conditions.
Kimmel’s show allows celebrities to read various mean tweets the public has sent them as a means to vent. Fans and critics will often tweet very mean statements that may include words like “hate” or “sucks,” which the study explains is clearly negative emotional language.
The study was conducted in over 1,300 counties with the median age being about 31 years old, which eventually included about 88 percent of the country’s population. It appears that the study may need to account for a slight degree of uncertainty in that some individuals tweet in such a way to build an online personae. This may occur when a person’s tweets are associated with work or if they just want to be seen as “cool.”
In searching for negative indicators, there was no established method, so the team began by searching for words which have been found traditionally in psychological research that reveal a negative emotional state. It is very difficult to directly determine the innermost emotional state of someone through a tweet. However, looking at a graph of the heart-related deaths charted on a map by death certificates and tweet messages, Twitter seems to provides eerily accurate data.
Watching celebrities read mean tweets which insult their movies, music, faces, and hair can be entertaining. For the actors who have participated in the segment, including George Clooney, Jennifer Garner, Jon Hamm and John Goodman, it may be an opportunity for them to offer back to the public a little negative mojo that was sent their direction, but for the people who originally wrote the tweet, there is concern.
The study has shown that individuals who use social media to express their negative emotional states may be providing valuable information related to their, and their community’s, psychological and physical well-being. What this initial study may suggests is that mean tweets are linked with heart disease, so health-conscious individuals may want to remember to be nice. There is a flip side to this study, though. Eichstaedt has also determined that there may be a lower risk of heart disease in those whose tweets reveal positive emotions. People impact society through their communication. If a person is negative, they express themselves negatively, and if they are positive, they do so positively. Eichstaedt explains “[t]hese people are the canaries of the psychological profile of their communities.” Like the canaries miners bring with them into the dark depths, tweets are heard loud and clear.
By Joel Wickwire