Language of Facebook: Women talk about shopping, men curse

The largest ever linguistic study of Facebook postings concludes that we are all appalling cliches.

I've never heard this song, but the image for the Brazilian pop single seemed somehow appropriate. João Neto & Frederico/YouTube Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

It's tiresome when people pretend they're enlightened.

The last time that happened was during the Enlightenment.

These days, we're all parodies of ourselves, claiming that we're progressive (whatever that means), while firmly planting our souls in stasis.

These aren't merely my words of severe experience. As Popular Science noticed, they're the conclusions of the largest ever linguistic study of Facebook postings.

The University of Pennsylvania needed to get together with the University of Cambridge in order to embrace all the fascinating language that Facebook's supposed billion have released into the world. 700 million words were analyzed in order to find the inner truths of humanity.

Their conclusions might leave those who believe in the world's advancement clutching for arguments and defibrillators.

For women apparently use "more emotion words (e.g., "excited"), and first-person singulars, and they mention more psychological and social processes (e.g., "love you" and "3" -- a heart)."

It's going to be hard for you to go on after that information, I know. This is something that resounds so strangely that you may have to take the rest of the week off.

However, may I present the first sentence of the study's conclusions about men: "Males used more swear words, object references (e.g., "Xbox" and swear words)."

Hell, yeah, as I'm bound to say, being male.

Who could have imagined that the higher level of communication on Facebook could reveal what we already know?

Past studies, with far smaller samples, have tried to save the male species from emotional extinction. One suggested that men use more emoticons.

This research gives that idea the sad, yellow sun and the dismembered ear.

But there was some intrigue along the way.

Men are, apparently, far more possessive on Facebook than are women. They say "my girlfriend" and "my wife." Women simply say "husband" or "boyfriend," which does seem less emotional and more accepting of a regrettable choice, or even a dire fate.

Wait, though. There's a twist.

Women more often precede the words "boyfriend" or "husband" with "her" and "amazing." Which might suggest either that they think of their husbands in the same breath as the Amazing Kreskin, or that they covet their friends' men more than they'll admit.

In general, women's Facebook talk centers around shopping, clothes, hair, and running away to Bermuda. (Actually, that last one may merely have been my own observation.) Men, on the other hand, talk about sports, war, gaming, sports, war, war gaming ... and breasts. More or less.

Stunningly, men don't talk about puppies much.

Reformists will attempt to interpret this information in a way that suits their twisted world view. They may suggest that Facebook isn't real, that it is mere role-playing or a peculiar social game where people are keeping up appearances.

For myself, I am delighted that the new caring, sharing, socially networked society shows that we share and care about exactly the same things as we did 50 years ago.

It's all deeply reassuring, isn't it?

A sample of the words used by age. PLOS ONE
 

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