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Women Tweet More About Loneliness on Twitter, But Men Get More Sympathy, Rutgers Study Finds

6-2-14

By Ken Branson for Rutgers Today

In a study of 10,000 Twitter users, two forms of loneliness emerged: tweets sharing transient, or passing, loneliness and those expressing enduring loneliness.

Women are twice as likely as men to express loneliness on Twitter. Men are more likely to tweet that they’re bored — and are more likely to get sympathetic responses, according to a new Rutgers study.

Researchers studied posts from more than 10,000 Twitter users in the United States. Two forms of loneliness emerged: tweets sharing transient, or passing, loneliness and those expressing chronic and enduring loneliness.

“We found that 70 percent of the nearly 4,500 tweets about loneliness were from women, compared to 30 percent shared by men,” said Funda Kivran-Swaine, a researcher with the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University, the lead author of the study.

Women tended to tweet about enduring loneliness — “I’ve felt lonely for years” or “I’m depressed all the time” — while men expressed boredom or transient loneliness — “I’m lonely — I have no one to hang out with.” Men who tweeted about loneliness were a third more likely than women to get a response, said Kivran-Swaine, who studies expressions of emotion on social media.

The study, “Understanding Loneliness in Social Awareness Streams,” will be presented today at a meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence. The study’s co-authors include researchers at Cornell Tech and the University of California, Irvine.

Kivran-Swaine thinks the reason people are less likely to respond to a post about enduring loneliness is that they don’t want to get involved with someone they perceived to be in deep emotional pain. “Women are more likely to disclose feelings than men, but that doesn’t mean women feel lonely more than men,” she says. “They just talk about it more.”

It’s possible that men are just as lonely, but express it differently or not at all, Kivran-Swaine says.