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Twitter Is A Giant Mood Ring

Apparently, having a social media network that reflects “life in real time” has created an irresistible research opportunity for scientists. Being able to sort through events, moods, and even the spread of disease attracts scientists to comb through billions of tweets for nuggets of info. Hundreds of scientists are working right now to figure out how to turn our past into predictions of future events.

All 140 characters at a time.

Most recently, however, is the large study published today in the journal, Science, which tracked people’s moods over the course of the day. The results are rather… unsurprising.

The abstract in Science states the following:

We identified individual-level diurnal and seasonal mood rhythms in cultures across the globe, using data from millions of public Twitter messages. We found that individuals awaken in a good mood that deteriorates as the day progresses—which is consistent with the effects of sleep and circadian rhythm—and that seasonal change in baseline positive affect varies with change in day length. People are happier on weekends, but the morning peak in positive affect is delayed by 2 hours, which suggests that people awaken later on weekends.

So, in other words, we feel pretty good in the morning and like crap in the afternoon.

Shocking.

A Time Magazine article about the study also noted the increase in well-being in the evenings (and is where I got the title of this post):

What they discovered is that Twitter can serve as a kind of global mood ring, reflecting the rise and fall of emotions around the world. On Twitter, the researchers discovered, emotions tend to run positively in the morning, peaking around breakfast time before falling and bottoming out in the late afternoon, then rebounding again in the evening. That pattern held up across cultures and countries.

This doesn’t surprise me; I know my mood rebounds when my daughter goes to bed and my work is done for the day (well, sometimes it’s done). What is more surprising is that the happiness pattern is repeated on weekends, with a delay of two hours for sleeping later.

Other studies of Twitter have included:

• Looking at the “Imagined Communities” aspect of the social network.

• Whether the speed of Twitter hurts the development of empathy.

• Evidence that journalists prefer Twitter.

• Tracking the spread of viruses and other illnesses.

With all this data available, it’s going to be pretty fascinating to see what bits of societal info scientists discover on Twitter next.

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