If Twitter can accurately represent the English-speaking world, then new research reveals that our overall happiness is on the decline. A team of scientists from the University of Vermont constructed a “happiness graph” based on a detailed and thorough study of tweets on the microblogging platform.
First, the researchers took 10,000 of the most common English words and had a broad sample of people rate how “happy” the words were on a scale of 1 to 10. For example, “laughter” scored 8.5, while “terrorist” clocked in at just 1.3. The researchers then applied the scores associated with these words to 46 billion words from the tweets of 63 million Twitter users over 3 years.
The resulting data suggests that, “After a gradual upward trend that ran from January to April 2009, the overall time series has shown a gradual downward trend, accelerating somewhat over the first half of 2011.” The researchers believe that Twitter’s instant and bite-sized content hones in on the real-time, raw feelings of users, and its large base of users provides a sufficient-sized sample for highly reliable data.