Meena Nagarajan                      

How do People Write: Language Usage in Social Media

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Along with Prof. Marti Hearst at UC Berkeley, I conducted an analysis on how men and women self-present in their online dating profiles [ICWSM09]. We studied language usage by quantifying usages of words from linguistic, personal and psychological categories from the Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC) Dictionary; next, using a multivariate statistical approach called Exploratory Factor Analysis to identify systematic co-occurrence patterns among LIWC variables; and finally grouping user profiles on the basis of their shared multi-dimensional features to compare and contrast self-presentation strategies.

We found interesting results in language usage by the gender groups that deviated from results of past studies in the general speech and writing habits of men and women. In particular, we found men to be using a higher proportion of tentative words (e.g., ‘may be’, ‘could’ and ‘perhaps’), a class of words typically attributed to the feminine discourse.

We also found many similarities in actual word usages, more so in the use of open-class category words (like affect and verb groups). We believe it may be the case that self-expression tends towards attempting homophily in online dating profiles, given the tendency to ‘imitate and impress’ in courtship.