A new study by the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, has found that Christians are happier and more socially connected than atheists are on Twitter.
"These findings provide the first evidence that the relationship between religion and happiness is partially mediated by thinking style. This research also provides support for previous laboratory studies and self-report data, suggesting that social connection partially mediates the relationship between religiosity and happiness," the team behind the study wrote in an introduction.
The study says that it analyzed data from nearly 2 million tweets on the popular social networking website from over 16,000 users, with the aim of examining differences between Christians and atheists in natural language.
Analysis of the results revealed that users who identify as Christians use more words that convey positive emotion and less words that convey negative emotion than nonbelievers do. The study also found that believers tend to be more connected and talk more about social processes than atheists do, which is also linked with happiness.
The 7,557 Christians studied were apparently Twitter followers of major Christian public figures such as Pope Benedict, Dinesh D'Souza, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and Rick Warren. The 8,716 atheists, on the other hand, followed well-known secular figures such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Monica Salcedo, and Michael Shermer.
As for what constituted "happy" Tweets, the university team searched for positive words such as "love," and "nice," as opposed to the frequency of negative words, such as "hurt" and "nasty."
"Overall, the present research demonstrates a positive relationship between religion and happiness that can be observed in subtle differences in language use," the team observed in the conclusion.
The researchers acknowledged, however, that they focused on more conservative Christians and militant atheists, which could exaggerate the difference between the two groups, meaning that the study is not definitive.
"Atheists may improve happiness by creating strong social support networks," the team wrote. "Increases in happiness among nonbelievers should parallel increases in the availability of secular social support resources and increased feelings of being respected in society."
Earlier this month, The Christian Post compiled a list of the top five churches that use social media the best, focusing on ministries that build relationships with church members and active Internet users through Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.
"Most of that is gained through people sharing our content with their friends, which puts us in front of new people who then follow us," Mars Hill Church Communications Director Justin Dean said. "They say content is king and we focus on creating good, valuable content that people will share."