From I to We: Group Formation and Linguistic Adaption in an Online Xenophobic Forum
Emma A. Bäck
Department of Psychology, Gothenburg University, Gothenburg, Sweden
Department of Political Science, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
Marie Gustafsson Sendén
Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Department of Psychology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
Much of identity formation processes nowadays takes place online, indicating that intergroup differentiation may be found in online communities. This paper focuses on identity formation processes in an open online xenophobic, anti-immigrant, discussion forum. Open discussion forums provide an excellent opportunity to investigate open interactions that may reveal how identity is formed and how individual users are influenced by other users. Using computational text analysis and Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC), our results show that new users change from an individual identification to a group identification over time as indicated by a decrease in the use of “I” and increase in the use of “we”. The analyses also show increased use of “they” indicating intergroup differentiation. Moreover, the linguistic style of new users became more similar to that of the overall forum over time. Further, the emotional content decreased over time. The results indicate that new users on a forum create a collective identity with the other users and adapt to them linguistically.