Canadians tend to be polite and nice while Americans are negative and assertive on twitter, a new study found
Linguistic experts from McMaster University builds on earlier research from 2016 when they analyzed 3 million tweets. In their recent study, the same team examined nearly 40-million tweets. They isolated words, emojis, and emoticons used most disproportionately on Twitter by people from the US and Canada.
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The bottom line, they say, national stereotypes are reflected even if those aren’t necessarily accurate.
The researchers used Twitter, one of the world’s most popular social media platforms, to better understand national identity on a mass scale and where stereotypes might originate.
Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the findings show national stereotypes are grounded, at least partially, in the words we choose to use.
“The most distinctive word choices of Americans and Canadians on Twitter paint a very accurate and familiar picture of the stereotypes we associate with people from these nations,” says Daniel Schmidtke, co-author of the study.
Canadians were far more positive on Twitter, using words such as thanks, good, amazing, great, and happy.
Americans use more negative words like hate, tired, miss, swear, mad, feel. Americans also used more netspeak like ‘lol’, ‘idk’, and ‘af’. While Americans preferred emojis, Canadians preferred emoticons.
“It’s tempting to think that Canadians tweet more nicely than Americans because they really are more nice than Americans,” says Bryor Snefjella, the lead author who was supervised by another co-author of the study, Victor Kuperman.
“But when we put all the data together, it suggests that something more complicated is happening,” he says. The wrinkle is that other studies which have surveyed large numbers of Canadians and Americans have consistently shown that such national stereotypes are not accurate. There isn’t any hard evidence to support that an average American’s and average Canadian’s personality traits are different.
“The Twitter behaviour we observe doesn’t actually reflect the real underlying personality profile of an average American or Canadian,” says Schmidtke.
To explore further, the team exposed the participants to the most typical words and emojis from each nation. They were not told how the words were chosen.
The results? Someone who uses very Canadian words has a personality matching the stereotype of a Canadian, and someone who uses very American words has a personality matching the stereotype of an American.
The team argues that Canadians and Americans may create their national character stereotype through their language use.
In the future, researchers hope to continue to compare other stereotypes between people in different countries.