Wednesday, 21 December 2011
"It appears that happiness is going down," says a University of Vermont researcher and head of a new study on wellbeing. The proof? Twitter, of course. Millions of users point to a global depression of an entirely non-monetary kind.
The team took 46 billion tweeted words across three years, and had users of Amazon's Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing machine to assign them happiness values—poison is unhappy, cake is happy, etc. These were then averaged and their frequency plotted, allowing researchers to calculate a rough global mood. From the graph above, you can see it's not a major drop, but overall, we're getting unhappier. Whether that means we as in everyone or we as in the tweeting populace is up in the air. Still, the UVM team feels confident enough to deem their Twitter lens a proper hedonometer—gauge of happiness—and extrapolate outwards.
Is Mechanical Turk's drone army a fair judge of verbal quality? Is Twitter the best way to seriously tap a person's thoughts? So much of what flows through Twitter has nothing to do with our true emotions, I'd guess—retweets are often not endorsements, and the playful or insincere prevails. The question, then, is whether we'll open up about our feelings through Twitter—an entirely public venue that most people would agree isn't really right for throwing your sorrows around—or whether our subconscious misery is just seeping out. I tend to talk about how crushingly unhappy I am on Facebook—you? [UVM via Verge]