Breaking news: People drinking wine and hanging out on beaches are pretty happy. How do we know this? Twitter, of course!
The Vermont Complex Systems Center, using Twitter and a fair amount of common sense, analyzed about 10 million geotagged tweets to find the happiest and least happy cities in the country. Doing so led to some obvious findings: Hawaii is the happiest state, and Napa Valley is the happiest city. Not-so-obvious: Beaumont, Texas, is the saddest city. Louisiana is the saddest state. Laissez les bon temps rouler.
The top five happy states were Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Utah and Vermont. Sad states were Louisiana, Mississippi, Maryland, Delaware and Georgia. Three of the happiest cities were in California, while every single one of the bottom five cities were in the South.
The study also assigned common words and phrases in tweets a positive or negative value. For instance, words like "rainbow," "lol" and "beauty" all had positive (and/or drunk) connotations, while "boo," "stupid" and "mad" had negative (and/or normal people) connotations. Here are some more of the most common words. Surprising to no one, Twitter is one big communal potty mouth, so we've edited some of them:
b---- [female dog]
[h-e-double hockey sticks]
So, for all you Napa winos out there, your "nice" "wine" and "food" "party" with your "lovely" "friends" earned you a lot of happy points. Beaumont, we don't know what you're doing wrong. A lot of traffic and jails? Maybe you're just being honest.
Of course, there are a few glaring issues with this study:
A) Twitter is not totally reliable, since it seems to document the very highest highs and lowest lows of people's lives, and people also lie a lot.
B) It doesn't account for regional differences. Perhaps people in Utah, one of the "happiest" states on the list, curse less? Maybe folks in Maryland (a "sad" state) have a gloomier outlook on life? There are so many factors at play.
C) A lot of the happiest areas are popular vacation spots. This isn't really a bias, except if you consider vacations an escape from real life in which case Hawaii may not be a real place at all, but rather a collective work of fiction to which we flee when life gets too sad in Louisiana or wherever. Also, if you went on vacation and didn't tweet about how happy you were, did you really go on vacation at all?
D) The arbitrary marking of words as positive or negative ignores contexts in which "friends" are bad and "[feces]" is good. Whatever those contexts may be. They must exist.
Still, despite the admitted flaws, the study is an interesting peek at how our social media usage changes from region to region, situation to situation. Also, it reaffirms what we have all known to be true: Twitter is where language and good grammar go to die.
"LOL" "boo" "[female dog]."