Is this why I have no Twitter followers? I’m too nice?
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I’m generally upbeat on Twitter. Many of my posts are enthusiastic blurts about science or research in which I use way too many exclamation points!! But I’ve noticed something: When I post an acerbic or cranky tweet, it gets recirculated far more widely than do my cheerier notes. People like it fine when I’m genial, but when I make a caustic joke or cutting comment? Social media gold. This is pure anecdata, of course. Still, it made me wonder if there was any psychological machinery at work here. Is there a reason that purse-lipped opinions would outcompete generous ones?
Indeed, there is. It’s called hypercriticism. When we hear negative statements, we think they’re inherently more intelligent than positive ones. Teresa Amabile, director of research for Harvard Business School, began exploring this back in the 1980s.