Parenting in the Age of TwitterINDIVIDUAL WELLBEING AND PARENTING SEEN THROUGH THE FAMOUS SOCIAL NETWORK IN A STUDY BY LETIZIA MENCARINI
Letizia Mencarini is examining the relation between subjective well-being and fertility across time and space in a five-year project funded by the European Research Council and hosted by the Carlo F. Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics at Bocconi University.
“Unfortunately, there is a lack of longitudinal data in Italy”, she says. The collection of soft measures such as information on attitudes and feelings posted on social media can be an interesting starting point. For this reason, professor Mencarini has analyzed millions of tweets with the collaboration of computer scientists, linguists and demographers of the universities of Turin, Florence and Valencia. They used hashtags and keywords to filter 260 million Italian tweets posted in 2014. They ended up with nearly 4 million tweets related to the topic of parenthood.
A random sample of 6,000 tweets was submitted to an annotation process on the CrowdFlower platform in order to detect sentiments and sub-topics. This subset of tweets was used to feed a supervised machine-learning experiment that has extracted soft measures on parenthood and fertility. The whole process is best described in Happy Parents’ Tweets. An Exploration of Italian Twitter Data with Sentiment Analysis, forthcoming on Demographic Research.
“According to our data, parents express a generally positive attitude about being and becoming parents and negative about politics”, Letizia Mencarini says. “They have quite negative sentiments also about their children’s future and parental behavior”. There is a significant correlation between the prevalence of positive sentiments about parenthood and macro-regional indicators for fertility and life satisfaction levels, an interesting subject for further exploration. “Our dataset is non-representative of the Italian population as a whole”, professor Mencarini says, warning against any form of generalization. “The sentiment analysis can nonetheless spark further research using more traditional techniques”.
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