Cold and heat fuel aggressive behavior on social media

Cold and heat fuel aggressive behavior on social media

Extreme temperatures—too hot or too cold—fuel aggressive behavior and hate speech on social media, a new German Twitter study shows.

Researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, led by Leonie Wentz, who made the relevant publication in the journal “The Lancet Planetary Health”, analyzed more than four billion messages (tweets) on Twitter during the period 2014-2020. Correlating with the help of artificial intelligence the content of the “tweets” with meteorological data, they found that both in absolute number and in percentage the messages of hate and aggression show an increasing trend when the temperature deviates from the usual levels.

“People tend to display more aggressive online behavior when the weather is either very cold or very hot. Being the target of hate speech online is a serious threat to one’s mental health. The psychological literature tells us that online hate can exacerbate mental health disorders, especially in young people and marginalized groups,” researcher Annika Stechemeser said.

“We see e.g. that outside the temperature “window” that one usually feels good, i.e. 12 to 21 degrees Celsius, the online hate ratio increases to 12.5% ​​for the coldest temperatures (-6 to -3 degrees) and to 22% for the hottest in the US (42-45 degrees),” he added. This “window” is not the same for all countries, but varies according to the climate zone and depends on what the usual average temperatures are. However, temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius were found to be more broadly associated with a noticeable increase in the hate ratio across all climate zones, regardless of income levels, religious and political beliefs.

Hate speech, according to the official United Nations definition, is language that discriminates against individuals or groups on the basis of their religion, nationality, ethnicity, race, colour, descent, sex or other identity factor .

“Even in high-income areas where people can have air conditioners and other options to deal with the heat, we see an increase in hate speech on extremely hot days,” said Professor Anders Levermann of the Potsdam Institute and Columbia University in New York. York.

“For centuries researchers have been concerned with the question of how climate conditions affect human behavior and social stability, which due to ongoing climate change is now more important than ever. Our findings highlight online hate speech as a new channel through which climate change can affect social cohesion and people’s mental health in general,” said researcher Leonie Wentz. with information from APE-MPE

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