Geography of Happiness


The Saddest Tweeters Live in Texas
Researchers analyzed ten million tweets to map happiness in the U.S. Congrats, Napa. Buck up, Beaumont.

Judging by tweets analyzed by scientists, Hawaii is the happiest state in the U.S. Map courtesy Mitchell et al, PLoS ONE
Judging by tweets analyzed by scientists, Hawaii is the happiest state in the U.S.
Map courtesy Mitchell et al, PLoS ONE

Discussion Ideas:

  • In their academic study, researchers analyzed individual words used in tweets across the nation. Can students list some “positive” and “negative” words?
    • How do those words match up with the words researchers analyzed?
      • Most positive: laughter, happiness, love, happy, laughed, laugh, laughing, excellent, laughs, joy
      • Most negative: terrorist, suicide, rape, terrorism, murder, death, cancer, killed, kill, died
  • The Nat Geo News article noted that the happiest states (Hawaii, Maine, Nevada) are frequent tourist destinations. This isn’t entirely surprising. An earlier study of tweets found that Twitter users “express happiness more frequently the further they travel from home”—people tend to enjoy their vacations. What are some other factors students think may influence the language of a Twitter user?
    • Time of day: One researcher quoted in the Nat Geo News article says that “People curse [express negative words] more and more as the day goes on.”
    • Day of the Week: An analysis of daily tweets shows that people expressed more positive words on Friday and Saturday, and more negative words on Monday and Tuesday.
    • News Events: Using the same “Daily Happiness Averages for Twitter” graph (limited to 2013), it’s easy to spot the “happiest” day of the year so far: February 14, Valentines Day. It’s also easy to identify the “saddest” day of the year so far: April 15, the day two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon.
    • Environmental Disasters: Louisiana, the “saddest” state in this study, is also one of the most environmentally vulnerable. In the past 10 years, it has suffered through devastating hurricanes, floods, droughts, and oil spills.
    • Economic status: “The people at the bottom of our list live in states that are more socioeconomically depressed,” one study author says in the Nat Geo News article. Have students compare the study’s Twitter “happiness map” with a poverty map from the U.S. Census and our own map of the U.S. minimum wage. What correlations do they see? (Remember, however: Correlation is not causation.)
  • How’s your area doing? Researchers update their Twitter “HapMap” daily. (Yesterday’s “happiest place on Earth” wasn’t Disneyland . . . but it was only 30 minutes away, in San Clemente, California.)

4 thoughts on “Geography of Happiness

  1. I don’t see what the colors represent on the Happiness map. My daughter is a psychologist in NZ whose expertise is happiness and what makes for it. Friends and such. 1. i think what’s called happiness is over rated. 2. being happy isn’t a sign of a person’s worth. 3. happiness can’t be measured 4. i agree with those living close to nature are happiest which may not be ‘well off’ in terms of modern thoughts. 5. personal internal measures create happiness but much success and achievement and good are done from ‘fear’ and ‘courage’ and ‘sadness’. Helping others Mother Teresa style can be ‘happy/sad’ but , mainly internally ‘happy’. I don’t see the dozens of questions asked by Gallup and i’d like to see them. Each location is relative. What is purpose to one is different to another. From what i can tell Nevada and Singapore’s ‘happiness’ is ‘titillation’ and flamboyance not happiness per se but ‘hyped’, distracted, glamor and glitz. I read Singapore has a zillion shopping malls. Maybe they are happy but i see that as ‘gone’ from reality. The monks at the Carthusean monestary i’d think are among the happiest on earth but they , too , may be escaping like most i think are marked as happy. I think being content, helpful to others and as sad as you are happy is more important than being ‘just happy’. Productive, loving, kind, joyful, serene, in touch with ‘reality’ (that, too, is so relative and can’t be measured just like happiness). Who are these ‘experts’. ‘Experts say’. That’s meaningless. I’m happy to write this. What a nation contributes to the world is more important than how happy the contributors are. Again, happiness is not the ‘thing’ to seek. Those who ‘seek happiness’ can’t be happy. Not seeking happiness or worrying about whether you are happy creates contentment and a joy filled life. The article stirred stuff in me. I think NZ has a lot to offer and so does Denmark. The United States is a young country with great principles but we have trouble living by them. I’d say no other country has the burdens the United States does. Well, that’s even relative. But, the United States carries a lot of weight on it’s shoulders and throws a lot of weight around where it shouldn’t but folks here, in the main, are as happy as anywhere else. Most of the people marked as happy in the article (Singapore and Nevada for example) are ‘titillated’, workaholics, into glitz. But, i guess that makes them happy. Sitting looking at the grass grown, shooting the rapids, looking at a deer, feeding the birds, cussing out a friend, taking a drive, sitting on the coast and starting my car to hear it running makes me happy. Money will never make anyone happy. That’s for sure. Neither will dancing in some Costa Rican bar.

  2. Very good written post. It will be supportive to everyone who usess it,
    as well as myself. Keep doing what you are doing – looking forward to more posts.

  3. That is interesting when people usually use swearing as practice shows. I think the happiest places are where people live close to the nature.

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