Research Briefs—Feb. 17, 2015


  • #engaged

    Charting into unprecedented territory, relationships are now using digital platforms to display signs of love and appreciation.

    A study from Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Interactive Computing will be presented at California’s iConference in March. Entitled She Said Yes! Liminality and Engagement Announcements on Twitter, the study focused on Twitter feeds following newly engaged couples.

    The study followed 923 people who used the hashtag #engaged to announce their future plans in 2011. The research team, Munmun de Choudhury and Michael Massimi, then examined tweets from nine months before the announcement and 12 months afterward.

    Grammatical patterns underwent a noticeable change after the engagement announcement. Usage of words like “I” and “me” dropped by 69 per cent upon being replaced with “we” and “us.”

    “People began to paint themselves as a couple, rather than as individuals,” said leading researcher de Choudhury. “They’re going through a major change in life, and it shows on social media as they adapt to society’s expectations of their marital identity.”

    Additionally, as couples looked forward to their future nuptials, past tense statements were replaced and future tense occurrence rose by 62 per cent.

    The researchers also noticed that women tended to use emotional terms to describe their feelings about their significant other, such as “#love, #kind, #wonderful,” while men were more likely to use physical descriptors, such as “#gorgeous, #beautiful, and #sexy.”

    “Twitter can be a powerful tool that can mirror our thoughts and how we’re actually feeling,” explained de Choudhury. “This isn’t based on what they told us they did. It’s a reliable record–it’s what they actually did.”


  • Get on up

    A meta-analysis performed by researchers from the University of Toronto has found that the longer a person is sedentary, the higher their risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death. Though this may seem obvious, the researchers say a more sedentary lifestyle carries increased risk—regardless of regular exercise.

    “It’s not good enough to exercise for 30 minutes a day and be sedentary for 23 and a half hours,” researcher Dr. David Alter explained.

    However, the authors found that the negative health effects are less pronounced among those who participate in higher amounts exercise than among those who perform little to no exercise.

    “The findings suggest that the health risk of sitting too much is less pronounced when physical activity is increased,” said lead researcher Aviroop Biswas. “We need further research to better understand how much physical activity is needed to offset the health risks associated with long sedentary time and optimize our health.”

    The average person spends more than half of his or her day in a sedentary position engaging in activities such as working at the computer or watching Netflix.

    “Our study finds that despite the health-enhancing benefits of physical activity, this alone may not be enough to reduce the risk for disease,” Alter explained.

    The study, published last month in the Annals of Internal Medicine, acknowledges that there is further research needed to study the link between risk of disease and sedentary behaviour. No optimum balance has been found between exercise and sedentary behaviour.

    But for now, the best thing for people to do is to decrease sitting time. The researchers emphasize the importance of setting a target for reducing sedentary time by two to three hours in a 12-hour day.

    “The first step is to monitor sitting times,” Alter said. “Once we start counting, we’re more likely to change our behaviour.”


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