America, are you happy? The emotional words contained in hundreds of millions of messages posted to the Twitter website may hold the answer.
Computer scientist Alan Mislove at Northeastern University in Boston and colleagues have found that these “tweets” suggest that the west coast is happier than the east coast, and across the country happiness peaks each Sunday morning, with a trough on Thursday evenings. The team calls their work the “pulse of the nation”.
To glean mood from the 140-character-long messages, the researchers analysed all public tweets posted between September 2006 and August 2009. They filtered them to find tweets that contain words included in a psychological word-rating system called Affective Norms for English Words – a low-scoring word on ANEW is considered negative, a high-scoring one positive. They also filtered out tweets from users outside the US, and also from those in the US who did not include their exact location – for example, their city – in their Twitter profile.
That left 300 million tweets, each of which was awarded a mood score based on the number of positive or negative words it contained.