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Researchers study tweets to reveal global mood swings

first_imgThere’s no question that many of us are in better moods during the summer months when the days are longer and there’s more sunlight. Also, those few extra hours of sleep on the weekends really do seem to make a difference in our moods during those days. This isn’t anything new to researchers who have long thought that moods in general change depending on the amount of daylight, sleep, and the length of a work day. The problem is that researchers didn’t have a lot of ways to confirm this theory on a global level. However, researchers at Cornell University looked to Twitter for the answer.The research team, led by Scott Golder, a PhD doctoral student in the field of sociology, and Professor of Sociology Michael Macy, tracked 2.4 million people in 84 different countries over the past two years. Clearly the team working on the project didn’t read through 2.4 million people’s tweets. Instead, they used a text analysis program that quantified the emotional content of 509 million tweets. Their results, featured in the paper “Diurnal and Seasonal Mood Tracks Work, Sleep and Day Length Across Diverse Cultures,” were published September 29 in Science.The researchers found that work, sleep, and the amount of daylight we get really does affect things like our enthusiasm, delight, alertness, distress, fear, and anger. They concluded that people tweet more positive things early in the morning and then again around midnight. This could suggest that people aren’t very happy while they’re working since their happy tweets are at the beginning and end of the day. Saturday and Sunday also saw more positive tweets in general. The weekend showed these peaks at about 2 hours later, which accounts for sleeping in and staying out late.Of course, all of the trends weren’t the same throughout every country. For example, the United Arab Emirates tend to work Sunday through Thursday, so their weekend tweets happened on Friday and Saturdays. The results also found that people who live in countries that get more daylight (closer to the equator) aren’t necessarily happier than people in countries that get less daylight (closer to the North and South Poles). It seems that only people who have a lot of daylight during the summer and then very little in the winter feel the affect of the change in seasons as much.Clearly the results of the research aren’t perfect. There may be some people who only share positive things on Twitter, or some people who love to be cynical and use Twitter to complain about problems.Golder also developed a website, called timeu.se, that lets users enter keywords and see how those behaviors are distributed throughout the day. For example, I entered the word “brunch,” and found that it skyrocketed on Sunday around 10:30 a.m. Though I prefer my brunch an hour or two later, it just goes to show how accurate the website is. Saturday peaks at the same time, though at less of an extreme than Sunday. The rest of the week is pretty uneventful in terms of brunch.Read more at Cornell, via New Scientistlast_img

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