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Can Twitter help to fight sexism?

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I wrote recently about the important role community can play when going through a tough time or trying to change behaviors in some way.

A recent study from a team of Canadian academics suggests that simply being able to vent ones frustrations about sexism in the workplace may be enough to mitigate some of the impact of the discrimination faced.

“We know women can be badly affected by experiences of sexism and that responding publically can be stressful and risky. This study examined whether using Twitter to respond to sexism could be done in a public way without any negative effects to their wellbeing,” the authors explain.

Participants were asked to tweet in one of three ways over a three day period having been fed information on various topical issues about sexism in politics, the media and in universities.

The first group were asked to do all of their tweeting in public.  The second group tweeted via a private account, and the third group did not do any tweeting at all.

Participants were given no guidance or instructions on the way they should tweet, so were free to post as often as they wished and however they wished.

Each participant completed a simple questionnaire to gauge their mood and wellbeing before and after they took to Twitter, whilst their content was analyzed for things such as linguistic and emotional content.

For instance, tweets were classified as being one of angry, discontent, sarcastic, shocked, surprised or sad.  Suffice to say, given the nature of the content, most of the tweets fell into the surprised or discontent pile.

“Never knew there was this much sexism in politics! It’s so disturbing! Shocked disgusted”.

Whilst it seems inconceivable that Twitter can contribute much to the situation, it did emerge that those who had tweeted publicly had higher wellbeing levels by the end of the experiment, whereas neither of the other two groups saw their mood altered at all.

“We know that popular online campaigns such as EverydaySexism have empowered women to speak out and share their experiences. However, this study demonstrates how tweeting publically has the potential to improve women’s wellbeing,” the researchers say.

“More research is required to understand whether this form of collective action has any further health benefits.”

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