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If You’re Happy and You Know It Send a Tweet

HappySadStateMapViaTheAtlantic

See the map, with red and blue and gray tones? It’s not about political affiliation. It’s an indication of happiness (red tones), less happiness (blue tones) and neutral (gray tones).

The Geography of Happiness: Connecting Twitter sentiment and expression, demographics, and objective characteristics of place presents the findings of some math and computing people at The University of Vermont. The link above is to a pdf, where you can read all about it, and see lots of neat graphs and such.

The researchers found that the 5 happiest states, from top to bottom, are: Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Utah and Vermont. The least happy, from top to bottom, are: Louisiana, Mississippi, Maryland, Delaware and Georgia.

How’d they do it?

We examine a corpus of over 10 million geotagged tweets gathered from 373 urban areas in the contiguous United States during the calendar year 2011.

I haven’t figured out how they measured happiness in Alaska and Hawaii if the data they used was from the “contiguous” states, but it’s probably in the study report somewhere, and I just didn’t see it. I’ll admit, I didn’t do a thorough reading.

Anyway, among other things and likely no surprise, they found that happiness in the U.S. “correlate(s) strongly with wealth.”

And there was this tidbit about “geoprofanity”:

A significant driver of the happiness score for individual cities was found to be frequency of swear word use; we believe that future studies of regional variation in swear word use or ‘geoprofanity’ could help explain geographical differences in happiness. Indeed, swearing has previously been found to be a predictor of large-scale protests and social uprisings in Iran.

So now we can wonder if our use of swear words is being monitored by Big Brother, or Big Sister, to be non-sexist.

The authors of the study acknowledge an obvious limitation of the study:

There are a number of legitimate concerns to be raised about how well the Twitter data set can be said to represent the happiness of the greater population.

Lots of people have never sent a single tweet, happy, sad or neutral.

Last bit of excerpted information, this via The Atlantic, where Alexis Madrigal notes (with some commentary) that the researchers:

… also found that the Bible belt stretching across the American south and into Texas was less happy than the west or New England. The saddest town of the 373 urban areas studied was Beaumont in east Texas. The happiest was Napa, California, home of many drunk people wine makers. The only town among the 15 saddest that was not in the south or Rust Belt was Waterbury, Connecticut.

Hope you’re having a happy Sunday. If you are, and you know it, maybe send a tweet. If you do, maybe mix it up a bit, and include some not too bad “geoprofanity” to express your degree of happiness. It might confuse those tracking our tweets, and comments and emails and such.

(Happy Sad State Map via The Atlantic)

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5 Responses to If You’re Happy and You Know It Send a Tweet

  1. ladywalker68 February 24, 2013 at 11:28 am #

    Very interesting piece. Thanks for this. I guess people who don’t have access to Twitter technology aren’t worth measuring.

    Of course the “swear word” analysis begs the question, “Is WTF considered a swear word?”

  2. Joyce Arnold February 24, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    It’s definitely a limited study, but still kind of interesting.

    And this — “Is WTF considered a swear word?” — made me LOL. :)

    • ladywalker68 February 24, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

      :)

  3. Cujo359 February 24, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    start quote:

    A significant driver of the happiness score for individual cities was found to be frequency of swear word use; we believe that future studies of regional variation in swear word use or ‘geoprofanity’ could help explain geographical differences in happiness.

    end quote

    Just as the end of piracy caused climate change. Correlation does not equal cause.

    Profanity could be a symptom of happiness as easily as a cause. It can also be something related that neither causes nor is caused by happiness or lack thereof.

    • Joyce Arnold February 24, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

      No, “correlation” certainly doesn’t equate with “cause.”

      They do acknowledge limitations, as is the norm, with the study as a whole, and spend a good bit of time in the methodoloy section, also the normal thing to do, of course, in explaning what they did and how they reached their conclusions. Lots to do with word usage, which in terms of determining which words indicated more or less “happiness” clearly has some subjective components.I didn’t spend time with such details for the post, but the researchers did :)

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong