If trolling people on Twitter is how you get your rocks off, then I have some bad news for you: you might be a future victim of death. According to an upcoming study from the University of Pennsylvania, there might be a connection between a hostile social media presence on Twitter and coronary heart disease. It might be a loose one, but it’s science.
The study followed geotagged data from Twitter in 1,500 counties in the United States then compared that data to the rates of coronary heart disease in those counties. What they found was a correlation between high rates of the disease and mean Twitter posts.
“Our analysis suggests that Twitter captures the psychological milieu of a community,” said Johannes Eichstaedt, the Penn Ph.D. student who led the study. “The psychology of people in your community can predict your heart disease rates to a certain extent.”
“If your community is hostile,” said researcher and visiting professor Andy Schwartz, “you’re more likely to die of coronary heart disease.”
The theory is that spending too much time in that hostile Twitter community will drive people to do things that “indirectly” lead to possibly fatal coronary heart disease: drink more, eat bad food, engage in risky behavior, and cut themselves off socially.
The operating word is “indirectly,” and the article citing the study is quick to point out that there is merely a correlative relationship between the Twitter data and heart disease. Meaning, no one is saying that Twitter causes heart disease, but a lot of people with heart disease were writing especially angry Twitter posts. This is science’s way of saying “I’m just saying.”
But if this is what helps you to calm down a bit while using social media — convincing yourself that being a jerk on Twitter will kill you — then please go for it. We the Tweeple will thank you.