/ Modified nov 29, 2016 4:06 p.m.

Study: Twitter Reveals Trauma after Campus Shootings

Tweets could help reveal insight about community reaction to NAU Flagstaff shooting.

NAU campus Flagstaff spot
Courtesy of Northern Arizona University

By Melissa Sevigny, Arizona Science Desk

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This week marks one year since four students were shot, one fatally, on Northern Arizona University’s Flagstaff campus. Now researchers are using the shooting as a case study to see if Twitter can reveal how communities respond to traumatic events.

The study was conducted by the University of California-Irvine. Lead author Nickolas Jones says Twitter provides a new way to collect psychological data.

“Trauma research is so difficult to do. Lots of events go unstudied,” Jones says. “Twitter gives us the opportunity to rapidly enter the community and assess the psychological impacts of a collective trauma.”

Jones analyzed hundreds of thousands of tweets from local Twitter feeds. On the day of the Flagstaff shooting negative emotion increased seven percent. Jones found similar spikes in two other cities after campus shootings.

The paper appears in the journal of Psychological Methods this December.

Arizona Science Desk
This story is from the Arizona Science Desk, a collaborative of the state's public radio stations, including NPR 89.1. Read more from the Arizona Science Desk.
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