STUDY: People Can’t Use Twitter Without the Eff Bomb


Birds of a feather @#$& together. 

WARNING: If you have a client interested in social media, you may want to turn your head. Better yet, turn your client’s head because twits can’t be trusted unless you are looking for the best George Carlin, Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy impressions.

According to a recent study by Fast Co. Exist, one of out every 13 tweets involves a curse word. After examining a random one-month sample of 51 million English-language tweets from 14 million distinct user accounts, they came up with this conclusion: We curse a lot on Twitter, where our language is usually public, even more than we do in real life.

After the jump, we’ll offer some informative but NSFW charts, so if you’re the squeamish type then you might want to #$%* off.

“A man curses because he doesn’t have the intelligence to say what’s on his mind.” ~ Malcolm X

If that is the case, this study proves how many stoo-pid people there are in the Twitterverse. Why people think it is socially acceptable to curse on Twitter is a reason for pause if you ask this dude in charge of the study.

“It’s a sizable fraction of the words we use. On average, one tweet out of 13 tweets will contain at least one cursing word,” says Wenbo Wang, a PhD researcher at Wright State University who led the study. “Because of social media, people don’t see each other. They can say things they wouldn’t say in the physical world.”

Unfortunately for the PR clients of the world, no social media strategy in the world will prevent the random Internet troll cloaked in a changeling account. If these digital ne’er-do-wells want to smack down a corporate brand, they will. Your best solution is not stoop to their level and forget you have an education and a rather dense vocabulary that brings you past the words of say, a fourth grader.

Here’s the fun part: Charts.

figure one

As you can tell in this scientific survey of Twitter, the eff bomb is clearly the favorite. Maybe because it sounds so angry to type or possibly that is the word most of these gnomes grew up saying in the first place.

figure two

Maybe there’s a Mensa class for people who can weave a fine tapestry of words like this together. I mean, it worked for the aforementioned George Carlin. He made a papyrus scroll and a fairly healthy career out of it. He seemed to cuss all the time. I wonder if timing matters? You know, you wake up after a long weekend. I’m sure the vociferous cursing may be on more of a rapid fire machine gun style instead of the dripping faucet, like during a client meeting.

figure thee

An attempt at “sentiment analysis,” which has its limitations, revealed that while negative emotions won out in swearing tweets, love and playfulness (two friends saying “you whore”) emerged as real signals in the data. Anger and sadness represented 22% and 17% of cursing tweets, whereas 7% seemed to express love. One in four of all tweets sampled that were classified as “angry” contained curse words.

While that’s all sweet, I’m sure there are some people out there who don’t curse on Twitter. It doesn’t seem that this study found those people, but hopefully, they are out there. Regardless, it seems when you can point fingers, that makes cursing the easiest as the most bad words show up on Twitter through retweets — as in, “Well, I didn’t say it. They did!”

Also, ladies, it seems that “slut” and “bitch” are seen as terms of endearment by many tweeters. So maybe we should educate the fellas.