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Twitter shows how the world is feeling
September 29th, 2011
02:01 PM ET

Twitter shows how the world is feeling

Weekends are happier times than weekdays, right? That association holds up in new research published in the journal Science that used Twitter to gauge the moods of millions of people.

Researchers at Cornell University looked at tweets from all Twitter users who created accounts between February 2008 and April 2009, weeding out those who tweeted fewer than 25 messages. In total, they looked at 509 million messages written by 2.4 million people. Then they matched words from those tweets to an established word list that psychologists use to gauge positive and negative moods.

They found that people tend to wake up in a good mood, which progressively worsens over the course of the day, but then picks back up from dinnertime to bedtime.

Before you go blaming your job entirely for bad moods, consider that the researchers observed a similar pattern both weekdays and weekends, with the morning freshness deteriorating and then a second wind of good mood around dinnertime. So maybe there's something biological going on relating to circadian rhythms and sleep.

On the other hand, overall mood is better during the weekends. In fact, weekends are happy times no matter what days happen to form your weekend. Most people in the United States have off from work on Saturdays and Sundays, and their mood as reflected on Twitter is heightened during that time. In the United Arab Emirates, weekends are Fridays and Saturdays, so Emirati people show good moods on those particular days. Also, generally people sleep later on the weekends.

"It is possible that when you are being woken up by the alarm clock, it interrupts your natural rhythm in a way that doesn’t happen when you wake up naturally," said study co-author Michael Macy, sociologist at Cornell University.

Tweets also reveal how moods change seasonally. It appears that the amount of daylight doesn't matter so much as whether the days leading up to it were longer or shorter. As the summer solstice approaches, and the days get longer, mood is higher on average than when daylight hours decrease, as the winter solstice approaches.

Researchers saw these trends across Twitter users in 84 countries, suggesting there is something universal related to circadian rhythms, as well as the effects of environmental stressors like the workday, said lead author Scott Golder. There's also the factor of when the sun rises and sets in your locality, says Macy.

"Culture interacts with our biological patterns to produce the changes in mood that we are able to observe using these data from Twitter," Macy said.

But tweets reveal more than just moods. Golder has launched a website called timeu.se where you can explore more behavioral results from the Twitter dataset. For instance, worldwide people seem to eat bacon (red line) more than sausage (blue line), although both are eaten at similar times of the day.

Beyond the results of the study, the methods represent a "game changer" for the future of this kind of fieldwork, Macy said.

"It’s all a playground for all the social sciences and the behavioral sciences," Macy said of social media.


soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. 2tor

    Lol, real scientific. I hope no-one buys into this. People selectively twit. There's absolutely no way to measure the mood of the world, just people that are on twitter at any given moment.

    September 29, 2011 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ababapa

      According to Annie Kaune's article on behavior and human computer interaction

      November 5, 2011 at 05:52 | Report abuse |
  2. jj

    People actually tweet whether they are eating bacon or sausage?

    September 29, 2011 at 18:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kevin

      tweeting is all about randomness. It's much different then facebook. I wouldn't be surprised if I had a bacon tweet or two!

      September 29, 2011 at 20:44 | Report abuse |
    • Whack Job

      It's amazing how people let others control their time. Why would anyone be interested in someone else eating bacon. Unless you're 15, of course.

      September 30, 2011 at 08:12 | Report abuse |
  3. DennisLunsford

    If Amanda Knox spends another week in the Italian prison I think that every civilized nation should stop buying any Italian products including wine! Hurt them where it would hurt the most "Their pocketbooks" LET HER GO AS THE EVIDENCE SHOWS!

    September 29, 2011 at 19:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ryan

      What does that have to do with this article? Please stay on the topic.

      September 29, 2011 at 22:08 | Report abuse |
    • Phantom

      Really? Really?! Are you one of those people that believes sticking absolutely random comments in topics having NOTHING to do what you are "taking a stand for" is actually going to do anything? Maybe you feel it satisfies your moral conscience; that you are doing some good for someone, somewhere? You're not. Whether this girl is innocent or not is irrelevant here, in this topic. This is a topic about Twitter, not Twits. Go preach somewhere else. Maybe a street corner where people will take you a bit more seriously?

      October 1, 2011 at 09:48 | Report abuse |
  4. John

    This app actually tries to do exactly what you descrive here, the data is inputed from beginning within happy/unhappy channels.
    http://archup.com/

    September 29, 2011 at 21:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Joe

    Cornell seems to be letting morons in these days – anyone one with 1/10th of a brain would know that this is a useless survey because it does not encompass non tweeting people. A shame anyone funded these idiot researchers

    September 29, 2011 at 21:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kyla

      Regardless of the type of survey, someone will always be left out, whether intentional or inadvertent. You cannot discredit the survey based upon that solely. I find this to be an interesting interpretation of what people display on social media and how that relates to social behaviors.

      September 29, 2011 at 22:41 | Report abuse |
    • Steph

      The survey itself does have a valid point. Using this data they have enough people to show it's not random. They have different ages, gender, incomes, counties, lifestyles, and other variables I have not listed to add to the independent variables. As an added bonus they don't have to worry about bias from people worried about what the researchers will think. Anyone who has taken a sociology course will know this.

      September 29, 2011 at 23:31 | Report abuse |
  6. gumby

    Did the pork have any metal pieces in it?

    September 29, 2011 at 21:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. frank

    WOW!!! ... watching, disecting and monitoring our conversations...hmmm

    September 29, 2011 at 22:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. iriE

    I want to see a similar study using CNN soundoff responses

    September 29, 2011 at 22:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. jo

    it is a biased sample (that is to say, certain demographics are more likely to use twitter than others) but a useful one nonetheless. At the least, it provides material for finding possible trends to check for among the greater population.

    September 30, 2011 at 00:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Monkeyboy

    Attention seekers unite!

    September 30, 2011 at 01:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. ausarun

    2.4 million is hardly a representative sample of the world population. Furthermore the model us biased towards younger age groups.

    September 30, 2011 at 01:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Whack Job

      Twitter if for kids, i.e., those with time on their hands with narcissistic tendencies.

      September 30, 2011 at 08:13 | Report abuse |
  12. Tim

    No, Twitter shows how the people that post to it feel, most of the world doesn't use that service. Few people have anything important or relevant to say, and just being online doesn't make it anymore interesting or a gauge to see how people (or the world) feels.

    September 30, 2011 at 02:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Numbers, numbers

    The first thing to know about any statistic is you can get the numbers to say what you want. Secondly, there's no way possible to survey all the people, all the time. Therefore, researchers use a sample of the population to measure the whole population. Of course there will always be people not represented. The study gives a general indication of how people all over the globe may feel during the day by using their own thoughts expressed by their own words.

    September 30, 2011 at 07:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Whack Job

    Everyone see the picture with this article? That represents who should be using twitter. It's a toy for kids. Grow up, folks. People don't really care about you that much, but don't have the heart to tell you.

    September 30, 2011 at 08:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Marie MD

    I don't mind my job. it's some of the people at work that are the ones put in place to make sure your five days (when I would rather be home) make it so miserable at times!
    Anyone from the top man to those middle managers who would sell their mothers and first born for power. Then karma happens and they are the ones who loose out in the end.

    September 30, 2011 at 08:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Santa Claus

    This is all based on the assumption that a Twitter user is posting 24/7, but according to my research people actually sleep.

    I'm taking a dump in the stockings of all these "scientists" involved with this study.

    September 30, 2011 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. sundownr

    Behavioral science seems like fairly non-toxic subject for now... but I wonder, given mankind's thirst for power, how long it will take before the behavioral sciences become socially toxic in their use. My guess is about a day or two.

    September 30, 2011 at 09:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Derek

    Certain kinds of people tweet, people that are self centered and think the rest of the world cares what they are doing every second of the day and people that are obsessed with following celebrities because they don't have a life or are incapable of independent thought. Neither of those two types of people speak for the rest of the world. Just look at the two girls in the picture, if they are the average person we are all in trouble............

    September 30, 2011 at 09:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. 1nd3p3nd3nt

    I'm awake, I'm alive! I'm so happy!
    oh wait, I gotta go to work now. I am so depressed.
    I better put this on twitter, for the sake of science.

    September 30, 2011 at 10:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Mr Zaphod

    @cnn -#is #this #not #obvious? #the #tool #was #designed #with #this #in #mind

    September 30, 2011 at 11:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. TWEET? YOUR NOT ME IM NOT YOU.

    DONT BOTHER TRYING TO DO A SURVEY ON WHAT A VERY MINUTE PART OF THE GLOBAL POPULATION WITH A FOOD OPINION. HARDLY SCRATCHES THE SURFACE WHEN IT COMES TO THE NATURE OF PEOPLE YOU'VE BEEN BRAINWASHED. I LOVE THE FALL AND WINTER BY THE WAY WITH ALL THE FOOD CONTAMINATION, DONT ASSUME WHAT WE WILL BE EATING AT ANY TIME OF THE DAY WITH THOSE HARD COLD FACTS. HAVE A NICE DAY!

    September 30, 2011 at 20:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. TERROR ALERT

    WHITES AREN’T WELCOME IN AMERICA ANY LONGER !!! WE DON’T NEED YOU ANYMORE !!! OUT OF AMERICA WITH WHITES !!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xGfYOAydjw OR http://www.youtube.com/user/BostjanAvsec <== OBAMA'S HEALTH CARE(recorded in 2009 and is pointing out undisputed acts of genocide against whites)

    Make sure to play one from beginning as youtube is censoring proofs of genocide against whites by either playing video in the middle or blocking one entirely from play

    Just in case or if not functioning, please use either http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xleq3o OR http://www.vidup.de/v/9dNJo/
    66 YEARS OF GENOCIDE AGAINST WHITES WORLD WIDE AND HOLLOCAUSTHOLLOCAUHOLLOCAUS STILL GOING STRONG(suicidal white guilt)

    VISIT ALL NEW “OBAMA = STALIN = BUSH or USA = SOVIET UNION”
    http://avsecbostjan.blogspot.com/ or http://avsecbostjan.wordpress.com/

    IS IT INDEPENDENCE THAT WE CELEBRATE OR DEPENDENCE (what are your credit card bills or alimony saying about it) !!? HOW IS YOUR DIABETES AND LOST MARRIAGES !!? FORECLOSURES AND JOB SEARCH !!? THAT IS THE QUESTION TO BE OR NOT TO BE !!! IS IT LAND OF THE FREE OR STATE OF TERROR AGAINST OWN WHITE POPULATION !!? IT IS TIME TO LET THEM KNOW WHAT COLOR ARE THE STRIPES ON OUR STAR SPANGLED BANNER !!! TIME TO DETERMINE WHOSE INDEPENDENCE/AMERICA, WE CELEBRATE TODAY(who wants to erase us and denies us the right to exist) !!! IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW WHOM WE ADDRESS WITH "PRESIDENT" (STOP HUMILIATING YOURSELF) !!!

    911(TWIN TOWERS) = NORWAY BOMBING OR STATE SPONSORED TERRORISM !!

    ARIZONA = UTOYA = THERE WAS NO SHOOTING EITHER IN NORWAY OR ARIZONA, BUT “AFTERLIFE” FLASH MOB INSTEAD !! Tear gas and theater were used on faces of multiculturalism maniacs while calling YOU a terrorists !! Guilt or blame and shame weapon against us and our families in our own countries during bogus “economic crises” while importing here non white third world foreigners !!!
    MULTYCULTURALISM = TERRORISM !! OBAMA = OSAMA !!!
    http://stateofterror.blogspot.com/ http://stateofterror.wordpress.com/

    911 WAS CREATED FOR PEOPLE TO WAKE UP(deliberately by CIA)....HOWEVER, WAKE UP EITHER TO WHAT IS TRUTH(sanity) OR WAKE UP TO LIES(insanity = with what your self elected governments have brainwashed you when forcefully jobless/persecuted....therefor­­e, I want you to think about "WAKE UP" when watching next time ALEX JONES = CIA)

    WHEN YOU WAKE UP, I WANT YOU TO WAKE TO YOURSELF AND NOT TO SOMEONE ELSE'S DREAM (ZIONIST/COMMUNIST/LIBERAL DREAM CATCHERS/THIEFS, WHO PLOTTED 911 TO WAKE YOU IN A WORLD OF LIES !!!)

    HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT TRUTH IS !!? WHATEVER YOU WERE BORN IS WHAT YOU ARE(truth therefore) AND FOR WHATEVER REASONS YOU HAVE CHANGED(distorted yourself) SINCE 9/11 IS WHAT YOU ARE NOT !!!

    FOR PIECE OF MIND(sanity), PLEASE VISIT MY WEBSITES AND REMEMBER, GENOCIDE(health care) BASED ON FORGIVE AND FORGET IS NOT FOR ME !!! DIGNITY, PRIDE, AND HONOR ARE WORTH TO DIE AND KILL FOR !!!

    October 2, 2011 at 18:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. SENSIBLE THINK TANK TO HELP US ALL GLOBALLY

    I BELIEVE THAT AS I TEXT THIS MESSAGE AND I LOOK UP AT THE BEAUTIFUL FALL FOILAGE THAT PEOPLE GLOBALLY TO BRING PEACE! ALSO AS CREATURES OF HABIT WE WILL CONTINUE TO LOOK OUT FOR ONEANOTHER CARE AND NUTURE EACH OTHER NO MATTER WHAT RACE WE ARE BECAUSE WITH WILL AND COMPASSION THE PLANET AND THE HUMAN RACE WILL SURVIVE STRONG! WE ARE MANY.

    October 3, 2011 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply

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