Geography of Happiness

GEOGRAPHY

The Saddest Tweeters Live in Texas
Researchers analyzed ten million tweets to map happiness in the U.S. Congrats, Napa. Buck up, Beaumont.

Judging by tweets analyzed by scientists, Hawaii is the happiest state in the U.S. Map courtesy Mitchell et al, PLoS ONE

Judging by tweets analyzed by scientists, Hawaii is the happiest state in the U.S.
Map courtesy Mitchell et al, PLoS ONE

Discussion Ideas:

  • In their academic study, researchers analyzed individual words used in tweets across the nation. Can students list some “positive” and “negative” words?
    • How do those words match up with the words researchers analyzed?
      • Most positive: laughter, happiness, love, happy, laughed, laugh, laughing, excellent, laughs, joy
      • Most negative: terrorist, suicide, rape, terrorism, murder, death, cancer, killed, kill, died
  • The Nat Geo News article noted that the happiest states (Hawaii, Maine, Nevada) are frequent tourist destinations. This isn’t entirely surprising. An earlier study of tweets found that Twitter users “express happiness more frequently the further they travel from home”—people tend to enjoy their vacations. What are some other factors students think may influence the language of a Twitter user?
    • Time of day: One researcher quoted in the Nat Geo News article says that “People curse [express negative words] more and more as the day goes on.”
    • Day of the Week: An analysis of daily tweets shows that people expressed more positive words on Friday and Saturday, and more negative words on Monday and Tuesday.
    • News Events: Using the same “Daily Happiness Averages for Twitter” graph (limited to 2013), it’s easy to spot the “happiest” day of the year so far: February 14, Valentines Day. It’s also easy to identify the “saddest” day of the year so far: April 15, the day two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon.
    • Environmental Disasters: Louisiana, the “saddest” state in this study, is also one of the most environmentally vulnerable. In the past 10 years, it has suffered through devastating hurricanes, floods, droughts, and oil spills.
    • Economic status: “The people at the bottom of our list live in states that are more socioeconomically depressed,” one study author says in the Nat Geo News article. Have students compare the study’s Twitter “happiness map” with a poverty map from the U.S. Census and our own map of the U.S. minimum wage. What correlations do they see? (Remember, however: Correlation is not causation.)
  • How’s your area doing? Researchers update their Twitter “HapMap” daily. (Yesterday’s “happiest place on Earth” wasn’t Disneyland . . . but it was only 30 minutes away, in San Clemente, California.)

One response to “Geography of Happiness

  1. That is interesting when people usually use swearing as practice shows. I think the happiest places are where people live close to the nature.

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