“On average, we can say the atheists have more friends, more followers, and they tweet more,” said Lu Chen, a doctoral candidate at the Kno.e.sis Center at Wright State University who co-authored the study with Ingmar Weber of the Qatar Computing Research Institute and Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn of Rutgers University-Camden.
The study is also remarkable for its size — researchers combed through more than 96 million tweets of over 250,000 Twitter users. They also studied the users’ friends — the people they follow on Twitter — and the users’ own followers. Subjects were Twitter users who self-identified as religious or atheist in their profiles, and only those who said they lived in the U.S.; researchers compared them to a “baseline” group of Twitter users who expressed no religious identification.
I can’t say the results are surprising at all. Atheists may be a small percentage of the population, but we live and breathe our beliefs via the Internet in a way no religious group does (or needs to). Twitter has turned out to be a fantastic way to pass along quick criticisms of bad ideas, including religion.
A few lines from the paper stand out:
The top 5 Twitter account that characterize Atheists all belong to atheistical or irreligious celebrities, including RichardDawkins, neiltyson, rickygervais, billmaher and SamHarrisOrg.
… the difficulty level of recognizing a user from a specific religious group based on their tweet content is (from easiest to hardest): Atheist jesus, god, christ, lord), beliefs (e.g., bible, gospel, psalm, faith, sin, spirit, etc.), practices (e.g., pray, worship, praise, and societies (e.g., church, pastor). On the other hand, Atheists show apparent preferences for topics about science (e.g., science, evolution, evidence), religion (e.g., religion, christians, bible) and politics (e.g., republicans, gop, rights, abortion, equality).