The power of love: It changes everything, even tweets

  • AFP
  • Updated: Feb 14, 2015 16:01 IST

If you get engaged and announce it on Twitter, the language, vocabulary and even the perception of time in subsequent tweets changes massively.

One of the biggest and perhaps most obvious changes, according to a new research paper by the Georgia Institute of Technology's Munmun de Choudhury, is dropping the "I". After impending nuptuals were announced via a 140-character missive, use of the personal pronoun fell by 69%, being replaced by "we" and "us."

"People began to paint themselves as a couple, rather than as individuals," said de Choudhury, a Georgia Tech associate professor in the School of Interactive Computing who led the study. "They're going through a major change in life, and it shows on social media as they adapt to society's expectations of their marital identity."

The paper, entitled "'She Said Yes!' Liminality and Engagement Announcements on Twitter," is the first of its kind and followed 923 people who in 2011 used "#engaged" on Twitter to announce their engagement. Each subject's tweets were analysed for the nine months preceding the announcement and for the 12 months post engagement.

As well as going from me to we, terms such as 'future-in-laws' and references to children spiked -- up by 219%. However, men in the study tended to refrain from using family words in tweets until having married.

But as well as avoiding use of words like "children," men, when complimenting their significant others, tended to fixate on appearance. Words such as ‘sexy', ‘beautiful' and ‘gorgeous' were the most popular platitudes. Women tended to gush on an emotional level. Their men were ‘wonderful' and they were more likely to use the ‘L' word.

To ensure the study remained empirical, the researchers also examined a random sampling of tweeters (12 million tweets in total) over the same period as a control group.

Perhaps most significantly, de Choudhury and co-author Michael Massimi found that perception of time and outlook changed noticeably once a Twitter user became engaged.

Those studied moved from using the past tense to using future forms of verbs instead. Use of the future tense increased 62% after announcing an engagement.

"People are more likely to post that they 'are going on a date night tonight' rather than tweeting that they already did so," said Massimi. "They're looking forward to the future in their real lives and boasting about it on social media too."

"Twitter can be a powerful tool that can mirror our thoughts and how we're actually feeling," said de Choudhury. "This isn't based on what they told us they did. It's a reliable record -- it's what they actually did."

The paper's full findings will be presented for the first time at the iConference 2015 in Newport Beach, California, March 24-27.

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