This is interesting. With all the strict censorship rules they have to face, you’d think that Chinese social network users would be miserable. Turns out they’re actually happier than their Western counterparts.
That’s according to computer scientists at the Delft University of Technology in Holland and the Shanghai Jiaotong University, who studied some 46-million messages on Twitter and its most prominent Chinese counterpart Sina Weibo.
The scientists say that 79% of the messages on Sina Weibo contained positive sentiment as opposed to 71% on Twitter. They also claim that Chinese social network users are less political:
Whereas 16% of tweets referred to ‘organisations’, only three percent do on Sina Weibo. Part of this may reflect the preference of Chinese users for avoiding mentioning large groups such as political parties.
Part of this might also have to do with the fact that the social network censors any content it deems political. In fact, I’d say that it’s a pretty big part of the Chinese “preference” for “avoiding mentioning large groups”. Having to post with your real name probably doesn’t help either.
According to one Chinese official who refused to be named, the real name rules might not actually stop people engaging in the kind of whistle-blowing that’s had Chinese authorities scrambling to crack down on the social network:
“The people who have large followings on Weibo already use their real names. Celebrities have all been verified, for example. And it will not stop whistle-blowers: in fact, everyone will be able to see, transparently, how they are treated by the authorities.
As for using the rules to catch people. Well, they do not need your real name information. The authorities can already find out when and where you logged in. They can find out exactly which computer was used. They do not need your name to catch you.
Another interesting take away from the study is that westerners tend to post on a much narrower range of topics:
The topics and concepts users discuss on Sina Weibo differ from Twitter (user interests are broader on Sina Weibo). This may reflect the fact that Chinese social media behaviour is more collectivistic in culture, and actual content of Chinese messages seems more important.
So what they’re essentially saying is that Twitter users are unhappy, overtly political and have nothing important to say. Sounds about right.
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