The Internet can be a hostile place, and Twitter is no exception. According to a new study, about 15,000 bullying-related tweets are posted every day, meaning more than 100,000 nasty messages taint the digital world each week.
To further understand what happens in the virtual world, researchers from the University of Wisconsin in Madison trained a computer to analyze Twitter messages using an algorithm created to point out important words or symbols that may indicate bullying. In 2011, during the time of this study, 250 million public tweets were being sent daily -- a number almost 10 times the population of the state of Texas.
In a paper presented to the Association for Computational Linguistics earlier this summer, Jun-Ming Xu, Kwang-Sung Jun, Xiaojin Zhu and Amy Bellmore discussed how they were able to develop their system of labeling tweets. Ranks were assigned to certain words and emoticons (smiley faces, frowning faces and the like), and a machine would then read the value of each of these words and symbols.
“In machine learning,” says Zhu, “the algorithm reads each tweet as a short text document, and it goes about analyzing the word usage to find the important words that mark bullying events.” Some of examples of these words were "mean," "kicked," "called," and "suicide," per the research paper.
"What we found, very importantly, was that quite often the victim and the bully and even bystanders talk about a real-world bullying incident on social media," Zhu told the University of Wisconsin-Madison News.
While the computer was able to identify tradition roles in the bullying cycle (such as bullies, victims, accusers and defenders), their research also lead to a new role: the reporter.
"It's just like it sounds," Bellmore stated, as reported by Phyc.org. "A child who witnessed or found out about, but wasn't participating in, a bullying encounter."
Incidents of "reporter" style tweeting recently made negative headlines when a 17-year-old boy snapped a photo of a man dying in the street, but didn't stop to assist him. His apathetic actions sparked a debate -- when do we, as onlookers, interfere?
A similar question could be asked with bullying. “Kids are pretty savvy about keeping bullying outside of adult supervision, and bullying victims are very reluctant to tell adults about it happening to them for a host of reasons," Bellmore said, per the University of Wisconsin-Madison News. “They don’t want to look like a tattletale, or they think an adult might not do anything about it."
According to the Milwaikee Journal Sentinel, the reachers would like to continue their study by digging into other social networks, such as Facebook. Bellmore and Zhu also hope these finding will help policy-makers better understand the morphing world of cyberbullying.
Are you surprised to learn that 15,000 bullying-related tweets are posted daily? Do you think this research can help society better understand the digital world? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section, or tweet us at [@HuffPostTech].
What We Eat (And It's Not Good)
Unfortunately, humanity doesn't eat so well, <a href="http://yearinreview.twitter.com/en/hottopics.html" target="_hplink">according to our tweets</a>. The top two food topics last year were the McLobster and Fried Kool-Aid, with Guinness beer not too far behind on the list. For 2012, we expect to see something about the Taco Bell's Dorito Taco.
Which States Are Going To Heaven And Which Like Beer
<a href="http://www.floatingsheep.org/2012/07/church-or-beer-americans-on-twitter.html" target="_hplink">Floatingsheep</a> geotagged about 10 million tweets (from June 22, 20120 to June 28, 2012) and collected data on posts containing the words "church" and "beer." In the graphic, seen above, the blue patches show places where there was more beer-themed tweeting, while the red spots show tweets mentioning church. Researchers found San Francisco had the most beer-related tweets, Dallas tweeted the most about church, and Los Angeles tweeted the most overall.
When Humanity Is Collectively Happy (Or Grumpy)
<a href="http://www.sciencemag.org/content/333/6051/1878.abstract" target="_hplink">A report from Cornell University</a> found that, in general, people are grumpy when they first roll out of bed, but they perk up by breakfast time. Throughout the afternoon our moods start to slump again, only to rise around quittin' time (6 p.m). Cornell researchers found these results by weighing positive verses negative tweets posted by more than 2 million people around the world. Interestingly enough, no matter the location, humanity experienced similar rises and falls in mood throughout the day. Graphic from the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/30/science/30twitter.html" target="_hplink"><em>New York Times</em></a>
Where The Chattiest People Live
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/06/top-countries-on-twitter_n_1653915.html" target="_hplink">A 2012 study</a> by the Oxford Internet Institute found that out of 4.5 million Twitter posts, the U.S. created 30 percent of the world's tweets, followed by Brazil with 22 percent. The United Kingdom and Indonesia tied for third place with 6 percent each. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/06/top-countries-on-twitter_n_1653915.html" target="_hplink">This graphic illustrates</a> which countries tweet most frequently by giving more active nations a larger portion of space on the "map."
How Much We Love Our Celebs
Humanity adores its celebrities, and Twitter is just one of many avenues available for stalking pop stars. <a href="https://twitter.com/ladygaga" target="_hplink">Lady Gaga</a> has over 27 million followers on Twitter, meaning that her clan of "little monsters" is larger than the <a href="http://www.census.gov/popfinder/?s=48" target="_hplink">entire state of Texas</a>. <a href="https://twitter.com/justinbieber" target="_hplink"> Justin Bieber</a> isn't too far behind, recently acquiring 25 million followers and a <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=YLnrH6E9lxs" target="_hplink">dance of jubilee</a> from Twitter employees.
Where We Get Our News
<a href="http://stateofthemedia.org/2012/mobile-devices-and-news-consumption-some-good-signs-for-journalism/what-facebook-and-twitter-mean-for-news/" target="_hplink">According to a 2012 Pew study</a>, Facebook tends to provide more news from friends and family, while Twitter is more likely to provide journalistic news. And even still, both social media platforms provided less news than originally hypothesized. [Hat Tip: <a href="http://www.adamsherk.com/social-media/pew-research-state-of-news-media/" target="_hplink">Adam Sherk</a>]
How Twitter Birds Of A Feather Flock Together
This graphic shows Twitter users who shared at least three <em>New York Times</em> articles from Sept. 14 to Sept. 29 in 2011. The study, from the <a href="http://necsi.edu/research/social/nyttwitter/" target="_hplink">New England Complex Systems Institute</a>, found that while Twitter brings many users together, we typically connect with like-minded souls online. "A person who is cosmopolitan associates with others who are cosmopolitan, and a US liberal or conservative associates with others who are US liberal or conservative, creating separated social groups with those identities," <a href="http://necsi.edu/research/social/nyttwitter/" target="_hplink">said Yaneer Bar-Yam</a>, president of NECSI. [Hat Tip: <a href="http://www.stuart-hall.com/2012/02/22/new-research-challenges-assumptions-about-twitter-news-sharing-communities/" target="_hplink">Plectic Ltd</a>]
That Older Folks Need Connections Too
The University of Alabama <a href="http://www.medicaldaily.com/news/20120716/10877/mental-health-social-media-internet-facebook.htm" target="_hplink">surveyed nearly 8,000 people</a> in 2012, finding that participants over the age of 50 who used Twitter (and Facebook) were one-third less likely to develop symptoms of depression than those not using social media. So maybe it's time to get grandma a Twitter handle?
How Often We Get By With A Little Help From Our Friends
<a href="http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/twitter-statistics-2012_b18914" target="_hplink">Infographic Labs</a> data in February of 2012 found that 69 percent of users say they follow certain people on Twitter because of suggestions from their friends.
When Popular Culture Is Going Viral.. Even If It Shouldn't
<a href="http://yearinreview.twitter.com/en/hottopics.html" target="_hplink">Throughout 2011</a>, Rebecca Black's hit (?) "Friday" was the most-discussed song around the Twittersphere. (Our bets are on Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" for 2012!) "Thor" was also the most tweeted about film, and "Pretty Little Liars" scored the most Twitter clout for television. Within the last week, both "Batman" and "The Dark Knight Rises" have been trending in cities across the U.S.
Which Corporations Want To Join The Conversation
<a href="http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/global-social-media-check-up_b25552" target="_hplink">According to data</a> from public-relations firm Burson-Marsteller, Fortune Global 100 firms are most active on Twitter, using this platform more than Facebook or YouTube, as of 2012. Maybe a bit surprisingly, this has been the trend since 2010 when Burson-Marsteller first began collecting data. Some of those companies include Exxon, Wal-Mart, GM and Honda. [Hat Tip: <a href="http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/global-social-media-check-up_b25552" target="_hplink">All Twitter</a>]
How Sports Bring Tweeps Together
<a href="http://mashable.com/2012/02/06/tweets-per-second-records-twitter/" target="_hplink">According to Mashable</a>, we tweet heavily during sporting events. In the 2012 European Championship for soccer, there were 15,358 tweets sent per second, and during the last minutes of the 2012 Super Bowl, 10,245 tweets were sent per second. Some close runner-up events were Tim Tebow's overtime touchdown pass on Jan. 8, 2012, as well as two moments from the 2012 FIFA Women's World Cup.
When We 'Fail Whale' And Have Low Self-Esteem
Just like in the real world, we're always looking for more friends on Twitter. And now, if you're willing to spend a little cash, you can purchase fake followers from online services to bloat your self-esteem. <a href="http://gizmodo.com/5925773/how-to-buy-a-ton-of-twitter-followers" target="_hplink">Gizmodo reports</a> that this growing trend isn't technically an illegal Twitter activity, but "[y]ou'll feel disgusted and guilty because you just paid actual money for fake followers on a website, and, man, blech, come on."
That Women Are More Social (And Maybe Becoming More Tech-Savvy)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/09/women-facebook-twitter-pinterest_n_1655164.html" target="_hplink">There are more women than men</a> on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, according to Digital Flash NY, which also means you might see more women entering the tech field soon. "Increasingly the people who are using these social media platforms are women," said Sarah Leary, co-founder of social networking site <a href="https://nextdoor.com/" target="_hplink">NextDoor</a>, in an interview with HuffPost. "So it's not surprising that women are increasingly playing a larger role in leading these companies or founding these companies."
What Topics Send Tweeters Into A Tizzy
Hashtags signify Twitter's popular topics, and throughout the last year there was plenty to tweet about. <a href="http://yearinreview.twitter.com/en/hottopics.html" target="_hplink">The most used hashtag of 2011</a> was #egypt, referring to that country's revolution that occurred during the Arab Spring. Charlie Sheen was also having his highly-mediated meltdown around that time, pushing that famous tag he coined, #tigerblood, to second place. Ironic or witty hashtags also made the list, like #idontunderstandwhy and #improudtosay. [Hat Tip: <a href="http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/12/06/overused-the-most-popular-twitter-hashtags-of-2011/" target="_hplink"><em>Time</em></a>]