What if I told you happiness could be determined by Twitter? Well, according to researchers at the University of Vermont, the 140 characters we type into that rectangular white bar say a lot more about our emotional state than we can imagine.
A team at the Vermont Complex Systems Center has published a study that directly assesses happiness according to tweet content. Ten million geo-tagged tweets from 373 urban areas across the U.S were coded for happiness based on the appearance and frequency of 10,000 words ranked by researchers to be happy (rainbow, love, beauty, LOL, wonderful, wine) or sad (damn, boo, ugly, smoke, hate, lied).
The result: a compiled list of happiest and saddest states and cities.
As represented in the map above, generally the West and New England showed happier results (represented in red) than the American South (appropriately represented in blue). The coasts are also in better moods than landlocked areas while cities with high density of tweets appear to be less happy. According to data, Hawaii is the happiest state (surprise, surprise) with Napa — the capital of wine country — taking the lead on happiest city. On the other side of the spectrum, Beaumont, Texas, is the saddest city while Louisiana takes on the title of gloomiest state.
When they compared the results to census data, it shows that income has a lot to do with happiness; wealthy areas tend to have higher happiness levels compared with lower-income areas.
Words like McDonald's, wings, ham and heartburn were popular in high-obesity places while words such as cafe, sushi, brewery and banana were mostly used in low-obesity zones. Places with high rates of obesity showed lower happiness levels.
What does a sad or generally negative tweet look like, according to this study?
Well, the tweet below would be rated on the sad side of the spectrum. Within the tweet are the words smoke, bitch, sh*t; these are considered to be used more by the unhappy than by the content. This tweet is also a prime example of geoprofanity — profane words automatically categorized a tweet toward the more negative spectrum of emotion. This is believed to be one of the reasons Louisiana was determined as the saddest state.
On the other hand, the tweet below is an example of what would be assessed as a happy tweet. Not only does it literally have the word "happy" in it but it also contains the word rainbow — considered to be one of the happiest words, according to this study.
Utilizing these mechanisms, Vermont Complex Systems has published the list of states ranked from happiest to most unhappy. Below are the top 5 of each category.
TOP 5 HAPPIEST STATES:
— Melissa808 (@Melissa808) February 17, 2013
Nights like this remind me of why I love Vegas
— Ashley Tuttle (@msashtut) February 20, 2013
I love utah. Like really, there is nothing bad about it at all.
— vibes♫ (@loganwoodardOG) February 19, 2013
TOP 5 UNHAPPIEST STATES
Honestly, I suck. I hate myself. I feel like I'm falling apart right after I just put myself back together. I keep doubting myself... — Taylor (@ThaDRK82) February 20, 2013
I hate Mississippi because its nothing here, Drama, Jealous people, and Ignorant bugging ass people!
— PyramidsΔ (@Yoour_Legacy) February 16, 2013
I just generally hate people
— McLOVIN (@seanshepherd95) February 20, 2013
My best is not good enough. Fuck everything. I hate my life.
— maryssa. (@rissaaaa_) February 15, 2013
Oh god my friends best friend today again called me a slut,scum,uneducated a knacker and to kill myself people are so nice
— Skip Follow me (@LukeBrooksWifee) February 19, 2013
Surveys assessing emotional well-being have been particularly popular these past years with US Gallup, UN Happiness Report and Healthways generating different mechanisms aimed to determine the emotional state of different areas. This study is an example of social media being used as a tool. It assessed 10 percent of all geotagged tweets posted in 2011, yielding over 10 million compiled tweets. In a world in which information, including personal material, is being spewed out in real time, it's only logical researchers use this to their advantage.
Here's the full study: