Detecting Sadness in 140 Characters: Sentiment Analysis and Mourning Michael Jackson on Twitter

Detecting Sadness in 140 Characters: Sentiment Analysis and Mourning Michael Jackson on Twitter

Michael Jackson’s death created an emotional outpouring of unprecedented magnitude on Twitter. In this report, we examine 1,860,427 tweets about Jackson’s death in order to test various methods of sentiment analysis and gain insights into how people express emotion on Twitter.

• At its peak, the conversation about Michael Jackson’s death on Twitter proceeded at a rate of 78 tweets per second.
• Users tweeting about Jackson’s death tend to use far more words associated with negative emotions than are found in ‘everyday’ tweets.
• Roughly 3/4 of tweets about Jackson’s death that use the word “sad” actually express sadness, suggesting
that sentiment analysis based on word usage is fairly accurate.
• That said, there is extensive disagreement between human coders about the emotional content of tweets, even for emotions that we might expect would be clear (like sadness).
• Tweets expressing personal, emotional sadness about the Jackson’s death showed strong agreement among coders while commentary on the auxiliary social effects of Jackson’s death showed strong disagreement.
• …this pattern in the “understandability” of certain types of communication across Twitter
is due to the way the platform structures the expression of its users.

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