“Lock, Load, n’ Thank the Driver”: The Positive Influence of Prosocial Activity on Language in Online Social Groups

Seamus Ryan, Dean McDonnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social-psychological research aims to understand and improve human functioning in a wide variety of contexts. With research showing that trust, joy, and anticipation are among the most influential positive emotions in aspects of online communication, determining the environmental factors that may influence communication and interaction is of significant interest. This research aims to identify the ways prosocial actions influence language within an online social community. Using a longitudinal observational analysis of linguistic markers, an analysis was done on an online community, surrounding the game “Fortnite.” At different time intervals, the written dialogue was analyzed for psycholinguistic markers through LIWC to detect variance in tone within the community. Users were queried (n = 9,037), filtered to meet the inclusion criteria (n = 7,221) and having their posts (n = 1,232,741) assigned to three cohorts, those of pre-prosocial, post-prosocial, and post-reciprocity, depending on the posting date. A statistically significant (R2 =.572) increase in positive emotion linguistic markers was detected in the data set after the prosocial action was added. A change in motivation did not reduce the use of positive emotion linguistic markers, contrary to what was expected. This research observes how individuals within online communities treat each other and that interaction can be influenced to improve the participant’s experience and the quality of dialogue. This research addresses how game design and human–computer interaction influence human communication and behavior. It supports that small changes to the real world have ripple effects in online communities for the better.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Media and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • cyberpsychology
  • Fortnite
  • gaming behavior
  • human–computer interaction
  • linguistic markers
  • online communities
  • prosocial behavior
  • video games


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