It’s commonly said that you either “get” Twitter or you don’t, and there is a small percentage of folks (your’s truly included) that understand Twitter but prefer other social media platforms. Regardless of where you stand on Twitter, there are millions using it to send billions of tweets, and lest you think all those pithy (and not so pithy) thoughts are gathering virtual dust on some Library of Congress archive server, researchers at University of Vermont’s Computational Story Lab have created a website that uses English-language tweets to guage the overall happiness level of the (English-speaking) world’s population.
Based upon the usage of certain words that are scored on a scale of 1 (sad) to 9 (happy), The Hedonometer crunches the numbers into a visual representation of the “world’s” happiness on any given day, going as far back as October 2008. Based upon the statistics so far, Christmas Day appears to be the happiest day of any year, and you can spot obvious low points as well, including the recent bombings of the Boston Marathon. The creators of the site plan to include other sources moving forward, including text from the New York Times, Google Trends, the BBC and Bit.ly.
What this means for you:
On a purely practical level, there is probably not much for the average human on Hedonometer.org other than intellectual stimulation. Sadly, UV’s researchers haven’t revealed the secret of happiness on a personal or global level, but their research and results do illustrate the point that many, including myself, like to make about living in the digital age: everything we do on the internet is being recorded, and in most cases, it’s being analyzed. Sometimes that analysis is academic (ie. Hedonometer.org) but as for-profit companies (think: Facebook) start to crunch the massive amounts of data they have on their servers, our collective behaviors, moods and (most importantly) needs will merely become an exercise in big-data analysis. While human welfare and profit aren’t mutually exclusive, the latter is not known for being universally conducive to the former, especially when the leaders (or stakeholders) of those companies view profit and happiness as a zero-sum game.