Twitter Offers Insight into Global Mood Patterns

Does your mood fluctuate with the pack based on common factors such as amount of sleep, work, and daylight received, or do you behave in a manner seemingly contrary to these factors? Scientists have long known that humans react to the rhythms of the day, but social media — in this case, Twitter, specifically — can be used to monitor the extent of their effects not only from person to person, but culture to culture as well. Cornell graduate student Scott Golder and professor Michael Macy have been using language monitoring software in tandem with Twitter for the past two years to study patterns of human behavior and understand what drives mood swings up and down around the world. It’s a pretty smart way to test 2.4 million people in 84 countries efficiently without having to pay subjects, I suppose (and if scientists have an abundance of anything, it’s smartness). Think of the dollars, pounds, euros, pesos, rubles, baht, and goats saved!

Twitter Offers Insight into Global Mood PatternsThe team was able to ascertain that daily peaks in attitude usually happen twice per day — once early in the morning, and then again near midnight, indicating that perhaps stress related to work is responsible for the downshift in attitude that occurs between the peaks. To further support this hypothesis, positive tweets are observed in greater abundance over weekends — when most people get a break from work — and a little later in the day, when people have had a chance to sleep in and recover some lost beauty rest.

This phenomenon seems to adjust itself based on when the “weekend” happens to fall in the region observed. In the United Arab Emirates, for instance, where the typical work week goes from Sunday through Thursday, the positive attitude of tweets elevates on Friday and Saturday. As an old top 40 station once told us, “Everybody’s working for the weekend…”

The scientists also kept an eye out to see if seasonal changes had an impact on the overall mood where they were experienced. While nothing conclusive on this particular matter could be recorded, the average length of days seemed to play a noticeable part in attitude — with greater exposure to daylight resulting in a more positive outlook (though certain residents of Santa Carla, California might beg to differ).

The team’s findings, summed up in the paper Diurnal and Seasonal Mood Tracks Work, Sleep and Daylength Across Diverse Cultures, was published in the September 29th edition of the journal Science.