Christians tweet more positive statements while atheists tend to speak critically on Twitter, according to a new study.
University of Illinois graduates Ryan Ritter and Ivan Hernandez together with psychology professor Jesse Preston conducted a computer analysis of nearly two million tweets. They found that Christians use fewer negative words and are more likely to talk about their social relationships than atheists on Twitter. Their findings were reported in the journal of Social Psychology & Personality Science.
The researchers analyzed followers of both prominent atheist and Christian personalities and separated them by who they subscribed to. The study used around 16,000 people and they analyzed their tweets for emotional content such as positive and negative words. They categorized words such as "because" and "think" as more critical.
Overall, they found that Christians made more positive statements and less negative ones than atheists. Believers used more social words related to positive emotions and made less analytical statements.
"If religious people are indeed happier than nonreligious people, differences in social support and thinking style may help to explain why," said Ryan Ritter.
Ritter believes the findings fall in line with other studies that link greater levels of social connectedness to higher well-being.
"Religious communities are very social," said Professor Preston. "Just being a member of a religious group connects people to others, and it may be this social connection that can make people happier."
"On the other hand, atheists had a more analytical thinking style in their tweets than Christians, which at extremes can make people less happy," he continued.
Similar studies have pointed to the same result, however, they have been flawed due to their reliance on some of the individuals to communicate their state of being and satisfaction with their lives.
By analyzing Twitter, the researchers were able to record how the tweeters felt at any given time without them creating a predetermine response to the general question.