Canadians more polite on Twitter than Americans,...
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Jan 08, 2016  |  Vote 0    0

Canadians more polite on Twitter than Americans, study says

A new study shows there may be some truth to Canadians’ politeness when compared to our American counterparts — at least on Twitter


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A new study shows there may be some truth to Canadians’ politeness when compared to our American counterparts — at least on Twitter.

The study, conducted by researchers at McMaster University, found that Canadians use disproportionately polite words on the social network, such as “great,” “amazing” or “favourite,” while Americans disproportionately use less polite words — many of which can’t be printed here.

The researchers looked at about 2.3 million tweets sent out between February and October 2015 in Southern Ontario, close to the U.S. border.

The idea, according to lead author Daniel Schmidtke, was to see how different language can be for people who live very close to each other, but separated by a political border.

“The geographic borders around the borders are climatically very similar, and they are sort of culturally similar . . . but there’s a social construct . . . that seems to be separating this space,” Schmidtke said.

“We wanted to explore whether that political border did anything to the way people used language.”

Schmidtke, along with Victor Kuperman and Bryor Snefjella, went to Twitter to examine people’s language, mostly because of the sheer volume of text available, but also because they could pinpoint the location of every tweet.

Schmidtke said the researchers didn’t want to just figure out the most commonly tweeted words in each area, but figure out which words were used disproportionately in each location.

“The word hockey might come out with a frequency that is large in the U.S, but is proportionally not as frequently used as it is in Canada,” he said. Even if more people are tweeting about hockey in the U.S, those tweets are a small portion of all U.S tweets when compared to Canada.

The group went into the study with no expectation of what they would find, and they let their algorithm figure it out, so as to not bias their outcome with any preconceptions they may have, Schmidtke said. The results still managed to surprise him.

“We didn’t know what to expect… you just see, on the Canadian side, such upbeat, positive and inclusive words,” he said.

The American words, to compare, featured many profanities and also a few racial slurs. Schmidtke said the team noticed that, but didn’t want to speculate on its meaning. They also won’t be looking further into the racial aspect of the tweets.

The study gained worldwide attention almost overnight which was another welcome surprise for Schmidtke.

“I was just on a transatlantic flight, and I’ve come back to a flurry of emails. [The response] has been really positive,” he said.

For those who might think the study is just Canadian propaganda, considering its Canadian origins, Schmidtke wanted to stress he’s actually British.

“I’ve got no political affiliation,” he said laughing.

The group wants to take their research further by looking at a whole year of tweets, to get a more accurate picture of what people tweet. They’ve also started collecting tweets from other parts of the Canada-U.S. border, such as the area around Vancouver and Seattle. The preliminary results have been promising, he said.

“It’s looking roughly the same (as the Toronto-area results),” he said.

Toronto Star

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