Last week, it was revealed that those who are snubbed on Facebook endure a "less meaningful existence" as people increasingly seek to use the social media platform as a vessel for self-definition. Now more online behavioural patterns have been identified in a study that focuses on the different ways that genders express themselves within 140 characters.
According to the paper Understanding Loneliness in Social Awareness Streams, co-authored by five different researchers from the US, women are more likely to send out cries for help on Twitter, such as “I wish I had friends to hang out with and do something with on my birthday I’m so lonely #loser”. Seventy per cent of nearly 4,500 lonely tweets analysed were sent by women. Of course, this is not a study attempting to prove that women are lonelier than men, merely that they express it more often online – the chances are that men are more reluctant to use Twitter as an outlet for any feelings of isolation. The artist Paul Neave set up Lonely Tweets – a constantly updated stream of abandonment. There have been 52 in the past five minutes, but it's inaccurate as it just recognises the word rather than the expression.
seeing cute couples makes me realise how lonely I actually am🙍— r a c h e l (@_wolfwhistle) May 14, 2014
Not only do women suffer more openly on Twitter but they are also less likely to elicit sympathy than men. Being male increases your chances of receiving a response to your disclosure of loneliness by 27%. Also, people who appeared the loneliest were the least likely to receive support from the social network. Do we find loneliness intimidating? Uncool? Why is it that we're reluctant to reach out?
Often people will call out Twitter "attention-seekers", individuals that people may claim suffer from histronic personality disorders. Generally, these people are secretly chided as an irrelevance and then ignored. If someone is consistently pleading for help, it seems strange that that factor often casts them as an irritation rather than a priority.
The study concludes by saying: "We looked at disclosures, which may not always imply genuine experiences, especially in the public and performative settings of Twitter. Therefore, while we described the experience of loneliness as communicated on Twitter, we cannot claim to have described the actual experience."
Of course, this is true – the study may not represent true expressions of loneliness, but it acts as an interesting barometer for analysing differences in the way that two different genders cry for help online. What is a TRUE expression of loneliness anyway? What is a TRUE feeling of loneliness? You decide, right?
Follow Thomas Gorton on Twitter here @angstromhoot