Emotions, Demographics and Sociability in Twitter Interactions

TitleEmotions, Demographics and Sociability in Twitter Interactions
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsK. Lerman, M. Arora, L. Gallegos, P. Kumaraguru, and D. Garcia
Conference NameInternational Conference on the Web and Social Media

The social connections people form online affect the quality of information they receive and their online experience. Although a host of socioeconomic and cognitive factors were implicated in the formation of offline social ties, few of them have been empirically validated, particularly in an online setting. In this study, we analyze a large corpus of geo-referenced messages, or tweets, posted by social media users from a major US metropolitan area. We linked these tweets to US Census data through their locations. This allowed us to measure emotions expressed in the tweets posted from an area, the structure of social connections, and also use that area's socioeconomic characteristics in analysis. %We extracted the structure of online social interactions from the people mentioned in tweets from that area. We find that at an aggregate level, places where social media users engage more deeply with less diverse social contacts are those where they express more negative emotions, like sadness and anger. Demographics also has an impact: these places have residents with lower household income and education levels. Conversely, places where people engage less frequently but with diverse contacts have happier, more positive messages posted from them and also have better educated, younger, more affluent residents. Results suggest that cognitive factors and offline characteristics affect the quality of online interactions. Our work highlights the value of linking social media data to traditional data sources, such as US Census, to drive novel analysis of online behavior.