According to a recent study, the verbiage that appears on Twitter reveals a great deal about the person who sent it. It also says a lot about the city and state where the message was created. (See “heat” map: Red = relatively happy. Blue = relatively less happy. Gray = neutral.)
Of course, those who look good love this research — while those who don’t are probably looking askance at the whole project. So, who is responsible for this groundbreaking approach to Twitter? Apparently, it all started at Burlington’s University of Vermont where researchers collected 10 million geotagged tweets from 373 urban areas across the United States in 2011.
Conducting the Study
According to the study, determining the “happiness” in those tweets required the use of the Language Assessment by Mechanical Turk (LabMT) word list which is assembled by combining 5,000 most frequent words occurring in each of four text sources: Google Books (English), music lyrics, The New York Times and Twitter.
These individual words have been scored by users of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service on a scale of 1 (sad) to 9 (happy) which resulted in a measure of average happiness for each given word. For example: the word “rainbow” would score high on the happiness scale, with an 8.1, while “earthquake” would score low, with a 1.9.
The researchers made no attempt to analyze the meaning of a text. However, they say that, for large datasets, simply counting the words and averaging their happiness content produces “reliable” results. The authors of this new study do an admirable job of showing that their data correlates with other existing measures of happiness, e.g., Gallup.
Results of the Study
Now, let’s take a look at some of the “city” statistics:
The 10 happiest cities in the U.S. are: Napa, CA, Longmont, CO, San Clemente, CA, Santa Fe, NM, Santa Cruz, CA, Green Bay, WI, Santa Rosa, CA, Simi Valley, CA, Lafayette, CO and Asheville, NC (look at all those California locations).
The 10 saddest cities in the U.S. are: Beaumont, TX, Albany, GA, Texas City, TX, Shreveport, LA, Monroe, LA, Memphis, TN, Battle Creek, MI, Flint, MI, Lima, OH and Houma, LA
And the statistics for the states:
The five happiest states are: Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Utah and Vermont (New York came in 15th).
The five saddest states are: Louisiana, Mississippi, Maryland, Delaware and Georgia.
The researchers found that the Bible Belt stretching across the American South and into Texas was less happy than the West or New England. The only town among the 15 saddest that was not in the South or the Rust Belt was Waterbury, Connecticut.
They also admit to limitations of the study, i.e., only 15% of online adults regularly use Twitter, and 18 to 29-year-olds and minorities tend to be more highly represented than the general population.
Times Square is the Happiest Spot
Times Square isn’t just the “Crossroads of the World” — it’s the happiest spot in the Big Apple. Manhattan is also happier than the outer boroughs according to researcher, Lewis Mitchell. However, he notes that tourism is sure to play a role. “We know people who travel are generally happier — so possibly that plays a role when people tweet,” he adds.