Director of social media lab explains impact of social media trends during the turbulent summer in Baton Rouge

Data collected from LSU’s Social Media Analysis and Creation Lab fueled speaker Lance Porter’s discussion of A Summer in Crisis: Baton Rouge and Social Media event.

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LSU Holliday Forum where Lance Porter spoke about social media’s impact on the summer in Baton Rouge.

During the discussion, which took place during the Moment or Movement Presidential Symposium in the LSU Journalism Building, Porter used statistics and data taken from Crimson Hexagon to explain the impact of social media on the events of the summer.

Crimson Hexagon is a social media analytics software which uses linguistics, gender, media trends and location to quantify emotions and pinpoint conversations occurring through social media. With a complex algorithm, this software can determine anything from which region or state is discussing the most about a certain topic to what overwhelming emotions people are feeling about that topic.

Porter explained that most of the data was retrieved from Twitter and Tumblr. He added that 41 percent of the conversations were “emotional” which is above average when compared to most conversations on these media platforms.

He also explained the difference between the number of people interested in the shootings versus the floods. The shootings of both Alton Sterling and police officers sparked national conversations in many news populated states with Louisiana topping the pack followed by New York. The floods, on the other hand, generally only sparked conversations in Louisiana.

Porter also explained the importance of hashtags in modern social media. He addressed the crowd saying hashtags are, “a tool used so you know what you’re getting and what conversation you are entering.” Top hashtags from the shootings were #AltonSterling, #BlackLivesMatter and #BatonRouge.

Many graphs were presented showing the influence of #BlackLivesMatter, a popular hashtag since 2014. Since then, many variations of the hashtag have surfaced such as #BlueLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter. After showing a graph of all the hashtags combined, Porter assured the audience that although many variations of this hashtag have surfaced, #BlackLivesMatter outplaced all in the full scope of events.

Porter also showcased an exciting feature of the Crimson Hexagon program which can determine the emotion of a post by the language used. For example, in the famous and commonly posted image of Leisha Evans being arrested at a Baton Rouge protest, the primary emotion surrounding the picture was disgust. Furthermore, most of the posts mentioning the BRPD were linked with the same emotion.

In general, most of the topics discussed over social media during and after the shooting were about challenging injustice, empowerment, and informational sources. There were also a few conversations with anti-government and pro-police themes.

In contrast, the flood prompted few hashtags and overall media coverage on a national scale. When hashtags were used for the flood, most of them were used in correlation with Donald Trump and Mike Pence’s visit to Louisiana, damage to cities and lack of national news coverage.

After the initial presentation concluded, Porter asked for questions from the crowd. One man inquired why any of this information is important and why society should care about what people share over social media.

Porter replied, “We need to know how we as citizens participate in our democracy by using information from the media. It is important for us to examine this as a powerful way for us to communicate and engage with each other that wasn’t possible before.”

Additionally, when asked how this event correlated and fit in with the Moment or Movement Symposium, he answered with a thought-provoking question: “Are we going to use these events that have happened around here to make progress and improve the ways we communicate with each other, or are we going to just let the moment pass?”

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