I’ve largely quit Twitter these days, mainly because the social network I joined in 2007 turned into a rage machine sometime in the last 5-10 years. I suspect it had something to do with their IPO in 2013 and transformation to what I term “software with shareholders”.
This Yale study proves a link between increased outrage and the number of likes and retweets received. But then, we already knew that.
Moral outrage can be a strong force for societal good, motivating punishment for moral transgressions, promoting social cooperation, and spurring social change. It also has a dark side, contributing to the harassment of minority groups, the spread of disinformation, and political polarization, researchers said.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter argue that they merely provide a neutral platform for conversations that would otherwise happen elsewhere. But many have speculated that social media amplifies outrage. Hard evidence for this claim was missing, however, because measuring complex social expressions like moral outrage with precision poses a technical challenge, the researchers said.
To compile that evidence, Brady and Crockett assembled a team which built machine learning software capable of tracking moral outrage in Twitter posts. In observational studies of 12.7 million tweets from 7,331 Twitter users, they used the software to test whether users expressed more outrage over time, and if so, why.
The team found that the incentives of social media platforms like Twitter really do change how people post. Users who received more “likes” and “retweets” when they expressed outrage in a tweet were more likely to express outrage in later posts. To back up these findings, the researchers conducted controlled behavioral experiments to demonstrate that being rewarded for expressing outrage caused users to increase their expression of outrage over time.