How your tweets may prove you're a psychopath

Scientists believe that using words like "die" and "bury" on Twitter indicate that you might have very difficult tendencies.

Surely they're not psychopaths. Surely. Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

You know all those people who use the phrase "iPhone killer" on Twitter? They're probably psychopaths.

So are, very likely, those who wanted Apple to "bury" Samsung.

How do I know this? Well, I am privy to new scientific information that indicates something very powerful about the language used while expressing one's feelings in social media.

Swearing or using words of high aggression is an apparent indicator that one is not necessarily well in the head.

I am grateful to the Daily Mail for not killing the story of the boffins at Florida Atlantic University and the Online Privacy Foundation in London, nor for burying it beyond my reach.

It seems that computer scientists from both institutions sat down and examined deeply an array of tweets. Then, using a questionnaire and 3,000 volunteers, they concluded that 1.4 percent of these people may well be burgeoning psychopaths.

Clearly this is quite a sweeping conclusion. The scientists themselves admit that there is some way to go before their findings can be termed, well, scientific.

"It's not enough to send in the SWAT team because someone is highly rated on this," Randall Wald, a doctoral student told the Sun Sentinel.

However, as an instinctive human being whose words have sometimes led him into trouble, I can't help imagining that there is something to these scientists' suppositions.

There is that awful moment when you think you've said something that is either apposite or even funny and you suddenly register how your words have been received. With gritted teeth, a clenched jaw, or a clutched musket, perhaps.

At that moment, you stop and wonder what those words -- which might have been said with good intentions -- have truly said about you.

Words like "killer" and "bury" have become commonplace, their meanings couched, but not necessarily buried.

The difficulty is, of course, that especially on sites such as Twitter, the tone and context might be hard for a machine -- or its human equivalent, the academic -- to grasp.

But the next time your Twitter feed is adorned by someone's excess cursing and words rooted in death and destruction, it's worth considering who they might really be.

 

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