‘Snowflake”, “fake news” and “I’m screaming” are among the year’s most widely disliked social media phrases.

But “let that sink in”, a phrase commonly used to accompany a so-called shocking statistic or fact, is the most passionately disliked, according to national study of 2,000 adults conducted by cyber security consultancy Online Spy Shop.

The findings were as follows:

  • Phrases deemed to be patronising generate the strongest negative reaction
  • Overuse of words is most likely to annoy more people, but less intensely
  • The study found that some phrases, such as “I’m screaming”, are just plain annoying
  • Psychologist Professor Sir Cary Cooper believes rapid over-exposure through social media makes us so angry about certain words

Online Spy Shop is a Manchester-based surveillance and security equipment specialist founded in 2005. Online Spy Shop supplies equipment and consultancy to private businesses, police forces, government agencies and private individuals throughout the UK and worldwide.

The Manchester-based study team monitored social media trends throughout the year to detect words and phrases that were increasing in popularity compared to the previous year. They then conducted a survey to gauge people’s reactions to those words.

“Snowflake” scored the highest for being annoying and “fake news” got the highest ranking for being overused. “Let that sink in” ranked highest for being patronising. Online Spy Shop polled 2,000 Britons between the dates of December 1st and December 11th 2017, asking them to select how they felt about each word or phrase, from a batch of 50, and then to attribute a score from 1-10 describing how strongly they felt this.

In general, overused or annoying turns of phrase got a moderately negative reaction, while patronising language evoked a stronger reaction.

Renowned psychologist Professor Sir Cary Cooper believes rapid overexposure to certain words or phrases can accelerate the process by which we come to dislike them.

“Idioms and memes hit saturation point very quickly on social media. It’s not that these words or phrases are any more irritating on social media than they are in the offline world, it’s the daily exposure to the same phrases that intensifies our reactions.

“So if a term that has the potential to gradually grate on you offline, it’s guaranteed to really get your blood boiling if you see it every day on social media. Especially if you’ve got a preconception about the person using it

Professor Cooper is an American-born British psychologist and one of the world’s leading authorities on organisational psychology.

He is currently professor of organisational psychology & health at the ALLIANCE Manchester Business School, University of Manchester and was formerly deputy vice chancellor of University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.


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