Your Tweets Could Give Away How Much You Make

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Turns out your Twitter says much more about you than just that pithy 140-character profile. A new study published in PLOS ONE found that researchers can actually infer how much a person makes, based on the language used while tweeting.

Researcher Daniel Preoţiuc-Pietro and his team at the University of Pennsylvania collected more than 10 million tweets from Twitter users in the United Kingdom, where they could estimate a pay rate based on job titles. Researchers then analyzed the text to determine any "psycho-demographic features" of users. What they found? They could actually predict a user's income based strictly on their diction.

Some of the findings: Any Twitter users who were perceived as Christian tended to earn less than non-religious users (or users who didn't reference religion). Meanwhile, more optimistic and more anxious tweets correlated with lower mean incomes.

"Higher income social media users do not signal anxiousness, although wealth has been found to have a positive correlation with stress," the researchers wrote — meaning higher-earning users could be stressed, but outwardly, they make it look easy.

Most of the research indicates that users who are more neutral in their social media presence — i.e., neither expressing joy or sorrow, tweeting objectively without giving away their stance — tend to earn more as a group. There are two exceptions: "Anger and fear emotions are more present in users with higher income while sadness, surprise, and disgust emotions are more associated with lower income," researchers write.

The topics in tweets also indicate income level, Preoţiuc-Pietro and his team found. Users who referenced politics, NGOs, and "corporate" tended to have higher incomes; swear words and "alternative spellings," on the other hand, predict a lower income.

Naturally, all of these assumptions are correlations, not necessarily causation. But it's safe to say if you want to create a good online presence, thinking carefully about the content you put out there could benefit you in the long run — especially if you're in the market for a new job.

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