Study explores effects of meditation on social media use

Can meditation change the way you operate online? University of Auckland researchers analysed more than 60,000 Twitter posts in an attempt to find out.

Twitter users who completed a 60-day online meditation challenge were more likely to post positive original tweets, according to a University of Auckland study, which is one of the first to track real-world behavioural changes in a group of Twitter users before, during and after attempting a mindfulness challenge.

Business School researcher Shohil Kishore was inspired to investigate if, and how, a contemplative practice like mindfulness might influence online behaviour after he saw a Twitter (now X) post by an influencer announcing a 60-day meditation challenge.

The researchers anonymised the tweets of the meditation challenge participants and those who had intended to complete or undertake the challenge but didn't follow through. They analysed a six-month window of data for each user independently. This was then combined into one dataset with six distinct periods.

Kishore and fellow researchers Sanghyub John Lee (UoA) and Amy Errmann (AUT) found that those who completed the 60-day online meditation challenge, which saw them meditate for 60 minutes per day, showed an increase in posting original tweets compared to retweets. Original tweets are posts created by an individual user whereas retweets involve resharing content generated by other users.

"We found that they were posting more content overall, more original content compared to retweets, and that the tweets that they were creating were more positive in nature than their counterparts who didn't complete the challenge."

Kishore says the study shows that mindfulness can be particularly amenable to creating original content.

"We argue that if consumers practice mindfulness, they more fully engage in online activities that require creativity and creation, which means that they are more likely to post original content rather than simply retweeting information created by others."

Business School researcher Shohil Kishore
Business School researcher Shohil Kishore

The study findings also indicate that Twitter users who completed the meditation challenge, compared to those who didn't, exhibited more positive emotions in original tweets.

Regarding retweets, the users who finished the meditation challenge displayed fewer positive reactions than the incomplete group.

Meanwhile, users who finished the challenge also exhibited higher engagement levels in terms of replies and length of tweets than those who didn't.

"When I saw the post about this challenge online, I was really curious about whether 60 days of meditation for 60 minutes a day would actually change anything," says Kishore.

"There's a lot of research on mindfulness in terms of investigating the effects of meditation on positivity, but we wanted to explore whether it can result in any tangible change, and our findings here indicate that an individual’s relationship with technology can evolve over time when engaging in meditation regularly."

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