skip to main content

Title: Language left behind on social media exposes the emotional and cognitive costs of a romantic breakup

Using archived social media data, the language signatures of people going through breakups were mapped. Text analyses were conducted on 1,027,541 posts from 6,803 Reddit users who had posted about their breakups. The posts include users’ Reddit history in the 2 y surrounding their breakups across the various domains of their life, not just posts pertaining to their relationship. Language markers of an impending breakup were evident 3 mo before the event, peaking on the week of the breakup and returning to baseline 6 mo later. Signs included an increase in I-words, we-words, and cognitive processing words (characteristic of depression, collective focus, and the meaning-making process, respectively) and drops in analytic thinking (indicating more personal and informal language). The patterns held even when people were posting to groups unrelated to breakups and other relationship topics. People who posted about their breakup for longer time periods were less well-adjusted a year after their breakup compared to short-term posters. The language patterns seen for breakups replicated for users going through divorce (n= 5,144; 1,109,867 posts) or other types of upheavals (n= 51,357; 11,081,882 posts). The cognitive underpinnings of emotional upheavals are discussed using language as a lens.

Authors:
; ;
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10212399
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume:
118
Issue:
7
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Article No. e2017154118
ISSN:
0027-8424
Publisher:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Introduction Social media has created opportunities for children to gather social support online (Blackwell et al., 2016; Gonzales, 2017; Jackson, Bailey, & Foucault Welles, 2018; Khasawneh, Rogers, Bertrand, Madathil, & Gramopadhye, 2019; Ponathil, Agnisarman, Khasawneh, Narasimha, & Madathil, 2017). However, social media also has the potential to expose children and adolescents to undesirable behaviors. Research showed that social media can be used to harass, discriminate (Fritz & Gonzales, 2018), dox (Wood, Rose, & Thompson, 2018), and socially disenfranchise children (Page, Wisniewski, Knijnenburg, & Namara, 2018). Other research proposes that social media use might be correlated to the significant increase inmore »suicide rates and depressive symptoms among children and adolescents in the past ten years (Mitchell, Wells, Priebe, & Ybarra, 2014). Evidence based research suggests that suicidal and unwanted behaviors can be promulgated through social contagion effects, which model, normalize, and reinforce self-harming behavior (Hilton, 2017). These harmful behaviors and social contagion effects may occur more frequently through repetitive exposure and modelling via social media, especially when such content goes “viral” (Hilton, 2017). One example of viral self-harming behavior that has generated significant media attention is the Blue Whale Challenge (BWC). The hearsay about this challenge is that individuals at all ages are persuaded to participate in self-harm and eventually kill themselves (Mukhra, Baryah, Krishan, & Kanchan, 2017). Research is needed specifically concerning BWC ethical concerns, the effects the game may have on teenagers, and potential governmental interventions. To address this gap in the literature, the current study uses qualitative and content analysis research techniques to illustrate the risk of self-harm and suicide contagion through the portrayal of BWC on YouTube and Twitter Posts. The purpose of this study is to analyze the portrayal of BWC on YouTube and Twitter in order to identify the themes that are presented on YouTube and Twitter posts that share and discuss BWC. In addition, we want to explore to what extent are YouTube videos compliant with safe and effective suicide messaging guidelines proposed by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC). Method Two social media websites were used to gather the data: 60 videos and 1,112 comments from YouTube and 150 posts from Twitter. The common themes of the YouTube videos, comments on those videos, and the Twitter posts were identified using grounded, thematic content analysis on the collected data (Padgett, 2001). Three codebooks were built, one for each type of data. The data for each site were analyzed, and the common themes were identified. A deductive coding analysis was conducted on the YouTube videos based on the nine SPRC safe and effective messaging guidelines (Suicide Prevention Resource Center, 2006). The analysis explored the number of videos that violated these guidelines and which guidelines were violated the most. The inter-rater reliabilities between the coders ranged from 0.61 – 0.81 based on Cohen’s kappa. Then the coders conducted consensus coding. Results & Findings Three common themes were identified among all the posts in the three social media platforms included in this study. The first theme included posts where social media users were trying to raise awareness and warning parents about this dangerous phenomenon in order to reduce the risk of any potential participation in BWC. This was the most common theme in the videos and posts. Additionally, the posts claimed that there are more than 100 people who have played BWC worldwide and provided detailed description of what each individual did while playing the game. These videos also described the tasks and different names of the game. Only few videos provided recommendations to teenagers who might be playing or thinking of playing the game and fewer videos mentioned that the provided statistics were not confirmed by reliable sources. The second theme included posts of people that either criticized the teenagers who participated in BWC or made fun of them for a couple of reasons: they agreed with the purpose of BWC of “cleaning the society of people with mental issues,” or they misunderstood why teenagers participate in these kind of challenges, such as thinking they mainly participate due to peer pressure or to “show off”. The last theme we identified was that most of these users tend to speak in detail about someone who already participated in BWC. These videos and posts provided information about their demographics and interviews with their parents or acquaintances, who also provide more details about the participant’s personal life. The evaluation of the videos based on the SPRC safe messaging guidelines showed that 37% of the YouTube videos met fewer than 3 of the 9 safe messaging guidelines. Around 50% of them met only 4 to 6 of the guidelines, while the remaining 13% met 7 or more of the guidelines. Discussion This study is the first to systematically investigate the quality, portrayal, and reach of BWC on social media. Based on our findings from the emerging themes and the evaluation of the SPRC safe messaging guidelines we suggest that these videos could contribute to the spread of these deadly challenges (or suicide in general since the game might be a hoax) instead of raising awareness. Our suggestion is parallel with similar studies conducted on the portrait of suicide in traditional media (Fekete & Macsai, 1990; Fekete & Schmidtke, 1995). Most posts on social media romanticized people who have died by following this challenge, and younger vulnerable teens may see the victims as role models, leading them to end their lives in the same way (Fekete & Schmidtke, 1995). The videos presented statistics about the number of suicides believed to be related to this challenge in a way that made suicide seem common (Cialdini, 2003). In addition, the videos presented extensive personal information about the people who have died by suicide while playing the BWC. These videos also provided detailed descriptions of the final task, including pictures of self-harm, material that may encourage vulnerable teens to consider ending their lives and provide them with methods on how to do so (Fekete & Macsai, 1990). On the other hand, these videos both failed to emphasize prevention by highlighting effective treatments for mental health problems and failed to encourage teenagers with mental health problems to seek help and providing information on where to find it. YouTube and Twitter are capable of influencing a large number of teenagers (Khasawneh, Ponathil, Firat Ozkan, & Chalil Madathil, 2018; Pater & Mynatt, 2017). We suggest that it is urgent to monitor social media posts related to BWC and similar self-harm challenges (e.g., the Momo Challenge). Additionally, the SPRC should properly educate social media users, particularly those with more influence (e.g., celebrities) on elements that boost negative contagion effects. While the veracity of these challenges is doubted by some, posting about the challenges in unsafe manners can contribute to contagion regardless of the challlenges’ true nature.« less
  2. In the United States, every state has a tourism website. These sites highlight the main attractions of the state, travel tips, and blog posts among other relevant information. The funding for these websites often comes from occupancy taxes, a form of taxes that comes from tourists who stay in hotels and visit attractions. Therefore, current and past tourists fund the efforts to draw future tourists into the state. Since state tourism is funded by the success of past tourism efforts, it is important for researchers to spend their time and resources on finding out what efforts were successful and whichmore »weren’t. With this comes the importance of seeing trends in past tourism endeavors. By examining past tourism websites, patterns can be drawn about information that changed, from season to season and year to year. These patterns can be used to see what researchers deemed as successful tourism efforts, and help guide future state tourism decisions. Our client, Dr. Florian Zach of the Howard Feiertag Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, wants to use this historical analysis on state tourism information to help with his research on trends in state tourism website content. Iterations of the California state tourism website, among other sites, are stored as snapshots on the Internet Archive and can be accessed to see changes in websites over time. Our team was given Parquet files of these snapshots dating back to 2008. The goal of the project was to assist Dr. Zach by using the California state tourism website, visitcalifornia.com, and these snapshots as an avenue to explore data extraction and visualization techniques on tourism patterns to later be expanded to other states’ tourism websites. Python’s Pandas library was utilized to examine and extract relevant pieces of data from the given Parquet files. Once the data was extracted, we used Python’s Natural Language Processing Toolkit to remove non-English words, punctuation, and a set of unimportant “stop words”. With this refined data, we were able to make visualizations regarding the frequency of words in the headers and body of the website snapshots. The data was examined in its entirety as well as in groups of seasons and years. Microsoft Excel functions were utilized to examine and visualize the data in these formats. These data extraction and visualization techniques that we became familiar with will be passed down to a future team. The research on state tourism site information can be expanded to different metadata sets and to other states.« less
  3. Background Internet data can be used to improve infectious disease models. However, the representativeness and individual-level validity of internet-derived measures are largely unexplored as this requires ground truth data for study. Objective This study sought to identify relationships between Web-based behaviors and/or conversation topics and health status using a ground truth, survey-based dataset. Methods This study leveraged a unique dataset of self-reported surveys, microbiological laboratory tests, and social media data from the same individuals toward understanding the validity of individual-level constructs pertaining to influenza-like illness in social media data. Logistic regression models were used to identify illness in Twitter postsmore »using user posting behaviors and topic model features extracted from users’ tweets. Results Of 396 original study participants, only 81 met the inclusion criteria for this study. Of these participants’ tweets, we identified only two instances that were related to health and occurred within 2 weeks (before or after) of a survey indicating symptoms. It was not possible to predict when participants reported symptoms using features derived from topic models (area under the curve [AUC]=0.51; P=.38), though it was possible using behavior features, albeit with a very small effect size (AUC=0.53; P≤.001). Individual symptoms were also generally not predictable either. The study sample and a random sample from Twitter are predictably different on held-out data (AUC=0.67; P≤.001), meaning that the content posted by people who participated in this study was predictably different from that posted by random Twitter users. Individuals in the random sample and the GoViral sample used Twitter with similar frequencies (similar @ mentions, number of tweets, and number of retweets; AUC=0.50; P=.19). Conclusions To our knowledge, this is the first instance of an attempt to use a ground truth dataset to validate infectious disease observations in social media data. The lack of signal, the lack of predictability among behaviors or topics, and the demonstrated volunteer bias in the study population are important findings for the large and growing body of disease surveillance using internet-sourced data.« less
  4. Abstract: 100 words Jurors are increasingly exposed to scientific information in the courtroom. To determine whether providing jurors with gist information would assist in their ability to make well-informed decisions, the present experiment utilized a Fuzzy Trace Theory-inspired intervention and tested it against traditional legal safeguards (i.e., judge instructions) by varying the scientific quality of the evidence. The results indicate that jurors who viewed high quality evidence rated the scientific evidence significantly higher than those who viewed low quality evidence, but were unable to moderate the credibility of the expert witness and apply damages appropriately resulting in poor calibration. Summary:more »<1000 words Jurors and juries are increasingly exposed to scientific information in the courtroom and it remains unclear when they will base their decisions on a reasonable understanding of the relevant scientific information. Without such knowledge, the ability of jurors and juries to make well-informed decisions may be at risk, increasing chances of unjust outcomes (e.g., false convictions in criminal cases). Therefore, there is a critical need to understand conditions that affect jurors’ and juries’ sensitivity to the qualities of scientific information and to identify safeguards that can assist with scientific calibration in the courtroom. The current project addresses these issues with an ecologically valid experimental paradigm, making it possible to assess causal effects of evidence quality and safeguards as well as the role of a host of individual difference variables that may affect perceptions of testimony by scientific experts as well as liability in a civil case. Our main goal was to develop a simple, theoretically grounded tool to enable triers of fact (individual jurors) with a range of scientific reasoning abilities to appropriately weigh scientific evidence in court. We did so by testing a Fuzzy Trace Theory-inspired intervention in court, and testing it against traditional legal safeguards. Appropriate use of scientific evidence reflects good calibration – which we define as being influenced more by strong scientific information than by weak scientific information. Inappropriate use reflects poor calibration – defined as relative insensitivity to the strength of scientific information. Fuzzy Trace Theory (Reyna & Brainerd, 1995) predicts that techniques for improving calibration can come from presentation of easy-to-interpret, bottom-line “gist” of the information. Our central hypothesis was that laypeople’s appropriate use of scientific information would be moderated both by external situational conditions (e.g., quality of the scientific information itself, a decision aid designed to convey clearly the “gist” of the information) and individual differences among people (e.g., scientific reasoning skills, cognitive reflection tendencies, numeracy, need for cognition, attitudes toward and trust in science). Identifying factors that promote jurors’ appropriate understanding of and reliance on scientific information will contribute to general theories of reasoning based on scientific evidence, while also providing an evidence-based framework for improving the courts’ use of scientific information. All hypotheses were preregistered on the Open Science Framework. Method Participants completed six questionnaires (counterbalanced): Need for Cognition Scale (NCS; 18 items), Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT; 7 items), Abbreviated Numeracy Scale (ABS; 6 items), Scientific Reasoning Scale (SRS; 11 items), Trust in Science (TIS; 29 items), and Attitudes towards Science (ATS; 7 items). Participants then viewed a video depicting a civil trial in which the defendant sought damages from the plaintiff for injuries caused by a fall. The defendant (bar patron) alleged that the plaintiff (bartender) pushed him, causing him to fall and hit his head on the hard floor. Participants were informed at the outset that the defendant was liable; therefore, their task was to determine if the plaintiff should be compensated. Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 6 experimental conditions: 2 (quality of scientific evidence: high vs. low) x 3 (safeguard to improve calibration: gist information, no-gist information [control], jury instructions). An expert witness (neuroscientist) hired by the court testified regarding the scientific strength of fMRI data (high [90 to 10 signal-to-noise ratio] vs. low [50 to 50 signal-to-noise ratio]) and gist or no-gist information both verbally (i.e., fairly high/about average) and visually (i.e., a graph). After viewing the video, participants were asked if they would like to award damages. If they indicated yes, they were asked to enter a dollar amount. Participants then completed the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule-Modified Short Form (PANAS-MSF; 16 items), expert Witness Credibility Scale (WCS; 20 items), Witness Credibility and Influence on damages for each witness, manipulation check questions, Understanding Scientific Testimony (UST; 10 items), and 3 additional measures were collected, but are beyond the scope of the current investigation. Finally, participants completed demographic questions, including questions about their scientific background and experience. The study was completed via Qualtrics, with participation from students (online vs. in-lab), MTurkers, and non-student community members. After removing those who failed attention check questions, 469 participants remained (243 men, 224 women, 2 did not specify gender) from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds (70.2% White, non-Hispanic). Results and Discussion There were three primary outcomes: quality of the scientific evidence, expert credibility (WCS), and damages. During initial analyses, each dependent variable was submitted to a separate 3 Gist Safeguard (safeguard, no safeguard, judge instructions) x 2 Scientific Quality (high, low) Analysis of Variance (ANOVA). Consistent with hypotheses, there was a significant main effect of scientific quality on strength of evidence, F(1, 463)=5.099, p=.024; participants who viewed the high quality evidence rated the scientific evidence significantly higher (M= 7.44) than those who viewed the low quality evidence (M=7.06). There were no significant main effects or interactions for witness credibility, indicating that the expert that provided scientific testimony was seen as equally credible regardless of scientific quality or gist safeguard. Finally, for damages, consistent with hypotheses, there was a marginally significant interaction between Gist Safeguard and Scientific Quality, F(2, 273)=2.916, p=.056. However, post hoc t-tests revealed significantly higher damages were awarded for low (M=11.50) versus high (M=10.51) scientific quality evidence F(1, 273)=3.955, p=.048 in the no gist with judge instructions safeguard condition, which was contrary to hypotheses. The data suggest that the judge instructions alone are reversing the pattern, though nonsignificant, those who received the no gist without judge instructions safeguard awarded higher damages in the high (M=11.34) versus low (M=10.84) scientific quality evidence conditions F(1, 273)=1.059, p=.30. Together, these provide promising initial results indicating that participants were able to effectively differentiate between high and low scientific quality of evidence, though inappropriately utilized the scientific evidence through their inability to discern expert credibility and apply damages, resulting in poor calibration. These results will provide the basis for more sophisticated analyses including higher order interactions with individual differences (e.g., need for cognition) as well as tests of mediation using path analyses. [References omitted but available by request] Learning Objective: Participants will be able to determine whether providing jurors with gist information would assist in their ability to award damages in a civil trial.« less
  5. Abstract
    The PoseASL dataset consists of color and depth videos collected from ASL signers at the Linguistic and Assistive Technologies Laboratory under the direction of Matt Huenerfauth, as part of a collaborative research project with researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Boston University, and the University of Pennsylvania. Access: After becoming an authorized user of Databrary, please contact Matt Huenerfauth if you have difficulty accessing this volume. We have collected a new dataset consisting of color and depth videos of fluent American Sign Language signers performing sequences ASL signs and sentences. Given interest among sign-recognition and other computer-vision researchersMore>>