Could Twitter use predict happiness levels?

Could Twitter use predict happiness levels?

New Research Reveals the Latest Secret to Happiness and Low Mood – How You Use Twitter!

by Dr. Raj Persaud for the Huffington Post

Just published research from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Vermont, USA, finds your wellbeing is linked to the mood of those you network with on Twitter.

The contentment of those up to three links away from who you directly interacted with, could also impact on your happiness. In other words, positive mood appears to spread through a network and could even be contagious. Perhaps similarly, depression and other emotional problems, might be socially infectious.

Another key finding from the research was more connected users tend to be happier.

Catherine Bliss, Isabel Kloumann, Kameron Harris, Christopher Danforth and Peter Dodds

analysed nearly 40 million messages posted to Twitter. This revealed social network structure

and dynamics over six months.

The study entitled, 'Twitter reciprocal reply networks exhibit assortativity with respect to happiness', focused on interaction between people. The term 'assortativity' means that happiness is not random – those in higher spirits seem to find and link with each other – or interacting with the contented renders you more up-beat.

But just following someone was not the key focus of the study. Two people being 'connected' in some social sense occurred, according to this research, if both had replied to each other. This study focused on reciprocal interaction using Twitter. The authors believed they were studying Twitter users who were part of a social network, similar to a set of connections in the physical environment, such as neighbours who you speak to in your neighbourhood, or colleagues at work.

Just published in the Journal of Computational Science, the authors describe Twitter as an 'online, interactive social media platform' in which users post tweets, micro-blogs with a 140 character limit. Since its start in 2006, the authors explain, Twitter has grown to over 200 million accounts, (at the time the paper was submitted to the journal in October 2011) with some users having garnered over 10 million followers.

This study used a 'hedonometer' for measuring sentiment in text, which had previously developed and used before in similar research. Exactly 10,222 of the most used words in the English language, on a happiness scale from one to nine (one representing sad and nine representing happy) were scored. The average happiness score of a word is the average from 50 independent evaluations. Examples are: 'love' as a word scores 8.42 on happiness, 'special' achieves 7.20, while 'never' drops to 3.34, 'sad' gets 2.38 and 'die' languishes at 1.74.

The study computed the happiness of each user by applying this 'hedonometer' to all tweets authored by the user. Each users' collection of words re?ects many messages – not just replies to those involved in reciprocal interaction.

So a tweet message such as 'Vacation starts today yeahhhh' – the word 'yeahhhh' wasn't coded, but 'vacation' is a word scored by many previous independent assessors in this kind of research, as more associated with greater 'happiness', than the other words in that sentence. As a result, 'vacation' is allocated a happiness score of 7.92.

Using this way of measuring how happy users of twitter are, contentment levels are found to be more similar to their nearest neighbours, and drops off the more others are removed from them in social networks. So those who score high on happiness, have happier immediate neighbours in terms of twitter interaction, than those who are 2 or 3 links away, whose good cheer declines the further away from a very happy person they are…

…keep reading more of this amazing happiness research HERE

And if you want to be happier then make sure you follow me, Dr. Happy, on Twitter via @drhappy (HERE)!