Are Canadians Really More Polite Than Americans?
As stereotypes go, being pigeonholed as excessively polite isn't the worst. Still, Canadians' longstanding reputation for being nice to a comical degree is a perceived quirk which has resulted in countless "I don't always apologize — sorry about that" memes. But since two doctoral students just apparently proved Canadians really are a more upbeat bunch than Americans, it looks like the whole well-mannered lot of them are getting the last laugh. Although they're undoubtedly far too nice to rub it in.
Using Twitter for their highly scientific study, Daniel Schmidtke and Bryor Snefjella combed through geotagged tweets from both Canada and the United States to the tune of a whopping 3 million sent between February and October of 2015. Then, using the most popular words from each country, they created word clouds to create a picture of each people's outlook on life. Or, at the very least, the outlook projected via frequently used topics of conversation on social media.
And — although not entirely surprising — the results suggest that Americans are the pessimists to Canada's optimists. In short, thanks to a disproportionate amount of negative diction, we kind of come across as a bunch of dillholes. Womp, womp.
"We could see the difference between the two countries' tweets as soon as we created a word cloud of the findings," said Schmidtke, who (along with Snefjella) is one of the first researchers to ever employ social media to explore geo-linguistic differences between neighboring countries.
Staring at the top terms comprising Canada's word cloud, an abundance of words with positive connotations pop out: "amazing," "great," "beautiful," "favourite," "holy," "enjoy," "awesome," "sweet" ... the list quite literally goes on and on.
This isn't the first study to offer data backing up the polite Canadian paradigm. In 2010, a study found that Canadians between the ages of 18 and 25 apologize often in order to foster positive relationships — according to the study, this "stems from a culture of being polite rather than being passive-aggressive, and this politeness is generally a positive thing." So double kudos, Canadians.
Then there's the United States' version, which feels a bit like the little black rain cloud of the word cloud world.
The blurred words should offer some indication as to why this experiment went awry for Americans. In case you're curious, though, top terms in the United States include gems like "hate," "bored," "swear," "hell," "damn," "hurt," "mad," and "annoying." (I take slight comfort in knowing my most used words on Facebook fall on the sunnier side.) Sadly, among America's top terms are even a few swear words and racial epithets. Sigh.
It looks like we Americans could stand to learn a thing or two from our neighbors in the North, eh?
Images: Daniel Schmidtke and Bryor Scefjella/McMaster University; Giphy (2)