The Daily Telegraph

Social media users get hot under the collar on the warmest days

- By Sarah Knapton SCIENCE EDITOR

Hate-filled tweets increase by nearly 60 per cent on hot days, researcher­s have found, suggesting social media users may want to avoid the platforms during heatwaves.

German researcher­s found that extreme hot or cold weather triggered outpouring­s of online aggression, which peaked in Europe when temperatur­es reached above 30C (86F). Levels of racist tweets were lowest at temperatur­es between 5C to 11C (41F to 51F), but very cold days saw a 20 per cent increase, and warm days a nearly 60 per cent rise.

In the US, the feel-good window was between 12C and 21C (54F and 70F) but online hate increased up to 12 per cent for colder temperatur­es and up to 22 per cent when the temperatur­e rose.

The research was based on more than four billion hateful tweets from US Twitter users, and 10million racist tweets in Europe.

Hate speech was defined as discrimina­tory language with reference to a person or a group on the basis of religion, ethnicity, nationalit­y, race, colour, descent, gender or other identity factor.

“People tend to show a more aggressive online behaviour when it’s either too cold or too hot outside,” said doctoral researcher Annika Stechemess­er, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

“We found that both the absolute number and the share of hate tweets rise outside a climate comfort zone. Being the target of online hate speech is a serious threat to people’s mental health.

“The psychologi­cal literature tells us that online hate can aggravate mental health conditions, especially for young people and marginalis­ed groups.”

Throughout history, weather has had a notable influence on human behaviour. The Roman philosophe­r Cicero observed in the first century BC that: “The minds of men do in the weather share. Dark or serene as the day’s foul or fair.” The researcher­s said the study showed that extreme weather impacts mood on a wide scale, and even countries with adaptation­s – such as air conditioni­ng – still saw a large increase.

“There is a limit to what people can take,” said Prof Anders Levermann, head of complexity science at the Potsdam Institute. “There are likely limits of adaptation to extreme temperatur­es, and these are lower than those set by our mere physiologi­cal limits.”

The research was published in The Lancet Planetary Health.

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