Project Abstract (2017)

People are increasingly using social media to communicate with each other. According to Social-Cognitive Theory, external influences, such as social media, can affect human behavior. In fact, current research suggests that social media promotes antisocial behavior in people. Social media, however, exists in conversation with another social context: the real-world events discussed on the platform. Thus, the current research is limited in that it considers social media as the sole external influence, which prompts the question,  “Do social media or real world events have a stronger influence on human behavior?” This research performed a linguistic analysis of Twitter using the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), examining various hashtags concerning current events that would elicit certain behaviors. Analyses were performed on a controversy, as controversies tend to promote antisocial behavior; a tragedy, as tragedies tend to promote prosocial behavior; and a control group, as it would provide a sample of typical behavior on social media. To represent the aforementioned groups, the hashtags #PrayforParis and #BlackLivesMatter were evaluated as a tragedy and controversy, respectively. If the tragedy and controversy show commensurate levels of antisocial behavior to the control group, then the social media platform is the stronger external influence; however, if the tragedy and controversy elicit unique levels of pro and antisocial behavior, then the real-world context is the stronger external influence. Findings will give insight into how pervasively social media affects its users, which is particularly important given its widespread use. (241)

Are You What You Tweet? Evaluating Twitter Through the Social-Cognitive Perspective