Apple Shake-Up, Part II: Tweets in Memoriam

On October 5th, the passing of Steve Jobs rocked the world. Millions were touched by the loss of one of the world’s great innovators who has firmly joined the ranks of Guttenberg, Franklin, and Edison. Over the 24 hours following his passing, an outpouring of grief was expressed online, as millions updated their Facebook profiles and tweeted their grief, inspiration, and cathartic woes. But what were those millions saying? How many were sad, inspired, remorseful, emotionless, or expressing some other sentiment. We were determined to learn more about them.

As soon as news of his passing was announced, we immediately began importing a GNIP feed in DiscoverText. For the first hour of that feed, tweets were ingesting at a rate of over 230 tweets per second, until that influx of Steve Jobs tweets actually crashed the Twitter server! (Thus, the apparent drop-off in the graph.) Luckily, Twitter was soon back online and after 24 hours, over 4.4 million tweets had mentioned Steve Jobs… and we had collected all of them.

This is an astounding amount of data, and far more than any person (or team of people) can sort, so we used a topic-classifier in DiscoverText to organize this trove of data. Classifying a sample of 100,000 tweets, this is what we found: Far more individuals expressed admiration for Steve Jobs and his legacy rather than heartfelt remorse. And while there were a few jokesters out there, far more tweets were inspiring.

Using a sample of about 25K tweets, about 40% of the them expressed admiration, 25% expressed sadness, 24% expressed the fact that he had passed away, 5% of the tweets were miscellaneous, and the final 5% were humorous, while not – in fact – particularly funny.

Steve Jobs left his mark on the world, not only technologically but emotionally as well; and these numbers demonstrate the extent to which that is true.

Related and coming soon: Twitter Eulogies: Social Media’s Response to the deaths of dictators and innovators.

About Josh Sowalsky

Josh Sowalsky is the Director of User Support at Texifter, where he has worked since September 2010. He holds two degrees in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies from UMASS Amherst, where he minored in History, Arabic, and International Relations. While at UMASS Josh designed and taught an advanced course that examined the intersection of technological development and national identity formation. Serving also as a research assistant in the UMASS Political Science department, he researched and published articles on electoral politics and political dissent in Jordan. Josh has conducted and presented multilingual field research on civil society development, democratization, and national identity formation throughout the Middle East - namely in Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. His honors thesis was entitled, "The Role of Women's Rights NGOs in Syrian Democratization." When not managing projects in QDAP or harvesting Arabic protest tweets in DiscoverText, Josh can be found strumming a ukulele, exploring Netflix, or swinging aimlessly at tennis balls.
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