Friday, March 6, 2009

Twitter tea leaves

People are like liquid, always yearning for containers. I'm not saying we want to be pigeonholed, but it's validating to be neatly placed into fitting containers. It's why people love horoscopes. It makes the world make a little more sense.

So before we all follow Samantha Bee over to Gruntr, here are a few shortcuts to help you contain yourself - and others-- analyzing the language in Tweets, blogs, and status updates.

Do you tweet like a man or woman?
  • Men are more concrete than process-oriented: they use a lot of articles (a, the) and few verbs. Women are just the opposite, and use more social words (talk, share, friends, family). In other words, it would be far less likely for a female to try to reduce the world into two types of people; we're too busy talking about all people (women love pronouns).

Are you a social butterfly?
  • You'd expect people who are socially oriented to talk about socializing, but it's actually introverts who use social words like party, socialize, talk! Introverts talk about whether or not they interact with others, while extroverts focus on different ways of relating (independent, selfish, loving). Extroverts subtly show their social orientation by using a whole array of pronouns - I, you, he, she, we, they: constantly taking different perspectives on the same story.

Are you working through some issues?
  • People who are depressed focus inward and use a lot of "I," "me," and "my" along with negative emotion words (upset, angry); as expected, not so many positive emotions (happy, laugh). When you're working through things in your head, you tend to use more causal (because, effect) and insight words (think, realize) in addition to words like should, would, could.

Are you power-hungry?
  • High status people tend to use more "we," less "I" and often command that "you" do something. Ever heard of the "royal we"? Interestingly, if you're trying to suppress your need for power, like others who inhibit their behaviors, you probably use a lot of negations (not, never). "It's not that I want to tell you what to do..."
Let me know if it fits.

Note: all research stems from findings in James Pennebaker's lab.

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