How to spot Christians and Atheists on Twitter.

By Seriously Science | November 26, 2013 7:00 am
Photo: flickr/wiselywoven

Photo: flickr/wiselywoven

If you’ve ever wanted to tell whether someone is a Christian or an Atheist just by reading their Twitter feed, you’re in luck. In this study, the researchers analyzed nearly 2 million tweets from Christians and Atheists. To identify the groups, they chose people who followed noted Christian or Atheist public figures: “The five Christian public figures were Pope Benedict XVI (@PopeBXVI), Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza), Joyce Meyer (@JoyceMeyer), Joel Osteen (@JoelOsteen), and Rick Warren (@RickWarren). The five atheist public figures were Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins), Sam Harris (@SamHarrisOrg), Christopher Hitchens (@ChrisHitchens), Monica Salcedo (@Monicks), and Michael Shermer (@MichaelShermer).” The researchers then did textual analyses of tweets from the two groups. They found that “Christians express more happiness than atheists in everyday language… [and]…were more likely to mention social processes that suggest stronger relationships and support networks. Simultaneously, atheists were more likely to use ‘insight’ words (e.g., ‘think,’ ‘reason’) that in turn predicted decreased happiness.” So, there you go.

Happy Tweets: Christians Are Happier, More Socially Connected, and Less Analytical Than Atheists on Twitter

“We analyze data from nearly 2 million text messages (tweets) across over 16,000 users on Twitter to examine differences between Christians and atheists in natural language. Analyses reveal that Christians use more positive emotion words and less negative emotion words than atheists. Moreover, two independent paths predict differences in expressions of happiness: frequency of words related to an intuitive (vs. analytic) thinking style and frequency of words related to social relationships. These findings provide the first evidence that the relationship between religion and happiness is partially mediated by thinking style. This research also provides support for previous laboratory studies and self-report data, suggesting that social connection partially mediates the relationship between religiosity and happiness. Implications for theory and the future of social science using computational methods to analyze social media are discussed.”

happy tweets

Related content:
Statistics catch Twitter bots in the act.
NCBI ROFL: Public health surveillance of dental pain via Twitter.
NCBI ROFL: Reminders of secular authority reduce believers’ distrust of atheists.

  • Bionic Brain

    Ignorance is bliss.

    • GivesItThought

      Ignorance is bliss only to the ignorant. To the well informed, the ignorant are dead weight, chosen by their own decisions to remain ignorant.

  • Uncle Al

    The unabled maximize self-esteem to be credible – effectively selecting for the deluded, hence government, religion, and macroeconomics.

    • GivesItThought

      Santa gave someone a dictionary…

  • GivesItThought

    This is one very happy atheist.

    • Bear Eggers

      Thanks for not responding with an analytical negative comment like all the rest of the atheists. As a mostly happy non-christian/non-atheist, I’m glad to see some civility.

      • Andrew Hall

        ^ this person sounds depressed based on my tiny pool of data.

      • Robert Chou

        (insert analytical negative non-civil comment here)

  • Chemnash85

    The thing I have noticed about christians is that their ‘happiness’ is forced and/or superficial, in other words fake it until it’s real. Social media profiles are mirrors of ourselves yet foggy ones and some are quite genuine.

  • Khaili Lungi

    I inhaled nitrous oxide once, I was very happy the whole time my brother
    was punching me in the balls…. It was the closest thing to having
    religion I have ever been. I envy the pious.

  • Randy Burbach

    My experience with “Christians” on Twitter is that they are a) humorless, b) angry and c) shallow

    • JedediahGoodson

      I find twitter in general to be a forum of extremes. People either complain, brag or preach. If the post doesn’t fall into those three, then it’s probably a company promoting something.

      IMHO the problem with some Christians (and I say some, not all) is that they assume that accepting Jesus makes you a better person (than you were, over other people etc).

      Your religion should show you your dark and icky places and offer you some options or chances at self improvement. The “relationship”, if we can agree to call it that for a moment; is between the person and God.

      Jesus, regardless if what you think, never hurt anyone, period. If you like what he stood for and you try your best to emulate him, how can you go wrong? Why would it make you unhappy?

      I would say that when Christians are unhappy – they’re ‘doing it wrong’ LOL.

      • Randy Burbach

        I would agree with that. Apart from the religious aspects – the miracles, virgin birth, resurrection – the teachings of Jesus, like those of the Buddha, are all about treating your fellow travelers with love, respect and compassion. I see very little of that coming from the right wing “Christians.”


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