What can Twitter teach us about happiness?
- Twitter users around the world are generally happier in the morning and get less happy as the day progresses.
- Weekends are happier than weekdays though the morning happiness starts later — probably because people are sleeping in.
- People are happier on holidays but major negative events (like the tsunami in Japan) can cause happiness to drop globally.
In his own study, Macy analyzed words expressing mood in 500 million tweets sent between February 2008 and January 2010. He found that people’s mood, as measured by their tweets, tended to be elevated in the morning and to decline as the day progressed. Weekends tended to be “happier” days, although mood peak started later in the morning, possibly reflecting twitterers’ tendency to sleep in. Most remarkable, Macy said in an interview with Science magazine, was that the tweets showed a similar pattern across the 84 countries where the tweets originated, suggesting that the daily mood curve is fundamentally human rather than cultural. In the past, such a study would have been limited to a smaller population within a lab, meaning researchers couldn’t empirically compare similarities and differences in mood across cultures.
A larger study by University of Vermont scientists led by sociologist Peter Dodds analyzed mood-related words in 4.6 billion tweets sent over three years. The results mirrored Macy’s. However, the Vermont team found a pattern of extraordinary, or “outlier,” days. People were markedly more happy on holidays and other special occasions, while unexpected negative events, like the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, led to a global downswing.
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