September 30, 2011
Twitter Works Like A Global Mood Ring
Sociologists at Cornell University have turned to Twitter to study the collective mood of Americans, finding that people tend to cheer up by breakfast time and gradually taper their sentiments by late afternoon, before rallying again near bedtime.
The researchers used Twitter in conjunction with language monitoring software to detect the presence of positive words in 509 million tweets from 2.4 million users in 84 different nations over a two-year period.
The researchers also determined that work, sleep and the amount of daylight all play a role in shaping cyclical emotions such as enthusiasm, delight, alertness, distress, fear and anger.
Scientists have long known about these affective rhythms, but have, until now, relied upon small homogeneous samples that lacked practical means for hourly and long-term observation of individual behavior in large and culturally diverse populations.
Before the rise of social media, these kinds of results were inconclusive, the researchers said.
The researchers discovered two daily peaks in which tweets represented a positive attitude — relatively early in the morning and again near midnight, suggesting mood may be shaped by work-related stress.
Positive tweets were also more abundant on Saturdays and Sundays, with the morning peaks occurring about two hours later in the day. This implies people awaken later on weekends.
These patterns were reflected in cultures and countries throughout the world, but shifted with the difference in time and work schedule. For example, positive tweets and late-morning mood peaks were more prominent on Fridays and Saturdays in the United Arab Emirates, where the traditional workweek is Sunday through Thursday, the researchers said.
The sociologists also tracked global attitude on a seasonal basis to determine if "winter blues" is represented in Twitter messages. While no correlation was discovered between absolute daylight and mood, there was a correlation when examining relative daylight, such as the gradually decreasing day length between the summer and winter solstices.
The study was published in the September 30 issue of the journal Science.
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