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Our Place in the Universe: 4th happiest state, according to Twitter

Posted By: Jackson Reeves · 4/6/2011 10:00:00 AM
When it comes to talking about how happy we are, the South dominates other regions in the country. At least according to Twitter. A study done by Cambridge PhD student Alexander Davies compared the number of times users in various geographic regions wrote what he considered happy or sad words in their tweets, reports New York mag. So "nice," "cute," "yayyy," "justin," "girls," "xoxo," "!!," and ";)" connote smiles times, whereas "migraine," "blehhh," "???," "hate," and "<\3" mean despair. Tennessee was rated the happiest state in the union with this sytem, and Georgia came in at a solid number 4. Other Southern states in the top bracket include North Carolina at 3 and Florida at 5. (On the global scale, he concluded that Germany was the happiest nation, while the U.S. took fourth.)
I suppose I should be happy with our high rank, but there a few problems with this study that I must first address:
1. No word is objectively tied to any one emotion. Beyond assuming that words such as "justin" necessarily mean "Justin Bieber" and the people who use that term are necessarily happy, this entire premise ignores ironic uses of words. What about tweets such as "I just got a flat. Nice."?
2. Since the study doesn't take into account every nation in the world, our high national rank is suspect. Russia, China, and the majority of Africa aren't included. Maybe each one of them outranks us. Same for the U.S. scale: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Montana and most of its surrounding states also aren't included in the study, and it's completely possible that New England's happiness rating could surpass ours (Massachusetts did come in eighth, after all). I'm also none to confident in a study housed on a website that mispells "happiness" with only one "p" in one of its headers.
3. As implied above, Davies assumes using these happy or sad words means the person necessarily is happy or sad when in reality it means they are trying to project that they are happy or sad. It's Psych 101. The people who run around talking about how elated they are constantly? They're probably miserable and overcompensating. Maybe the South is the most ebullient region. Or maybe we're just exceptionally insecure.
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