Twitter Happiness

Study: Twitter users hate being home (or at least are way happier being away)

You know what’s horrible? Being at home. At least that is the general sentiment among Twitter users, whose level of happiness was shown to increase exponentially when they were far away from home.

The research team from the Univerity of Vermont analyzed 37 million publically available tweets from 180,000 individuals written throughout 2011. First, the researchers used location data of the tweets and averaged them to pinpoint users’ home and work locales (their “expected locations”). They then compared the sentiments of tweets written from within and those that were from far away from these expected locations.

Some of the words researchers
used to determine sentiment.

The team found that tweets were far more likely to include positive words when far away from home. Perhaps this is not surprising as people tend to be on vacation or visiting with friends and family when they are away from their normal locations. The research even showed that people used profanity a lot less when away from their normal routine.

“…individuals in the large radius group author the negative words ‘hate’, ‘damn’, ‘don’t’, ‘mad’, ‘never’, ‘not’ and assorted profanity less frequently, and the positive words ‘great’, ‘new’, ‘dinner’, ‘hahaha’, and ‘lunch’ more frequently than the small radius group.”

And as you might expect, the “large radius” tweets were also more concerned with pleasurable activities than those close to home.

“Comparing with other groups, the large radius group authors an increased frequency of words in reference to eating, like the words ‘dinner’, ‘lunch’, ‘restaurant’, and ‘food’, and make less reference to traffic congestion.”

Whether you realize it or not, every time you tweet out a thought sneeze, you are releasing a bit of quantifiable data into the world. Your little missive has a timestamp, a location, and a measurable sentiment. And it’s all public and searchable, allowing data nerds to create a detailed map of human behavior.

This study may seem like scientists just spent time sifting through millions of tweets in order to prove that people enjoy being on vacation. However, this type of research is indicative of a new wave of social science that will allow researchers to find all manner of information from a public that incerasingly doesn’t know the definition of #TMI.

[MIT Technology Review]

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