Facebook measuring the mood in the US

October 6, 2009
Facebook is tracking how happy people are in the United States. Mother's Day was predictably upbeat, according to a Gross National Happiness index graph on the popular social networking service's blog on Tuesday, but for reasons unknown people's moods evidently sank days later.

Facebook is tracking how happy people are in the United States. Mother's Day was predictably upbeat, according to a Gross National Happiness index graph on the popular social networking service's blog on Tuesday, but for reasons unknown people's moods evidently sank days later.

The pattern was the same for Father's Day.

Facebook began earlier this year gauging the nation's by tallying the numbers of positive and negative words used in status updates posted by users, intern Adam Kramer of the firm's data team said in an online post.

In brief messages posted to social networking pages, Facebook users keep friends up to speed with thoughts and activities.

"Every day, through Facebook status updates, people share how they feel with those who matter most in their lives," Kramer said.

"These updates are tiny windows into how people are doing. Grouped together, these updates are indicative of how we are collectively feeling."

worked with psychologists and some of the more than 300 million members of its service to create collections of sunny and gloomy words indicative of whether people were having bright or dark days.

The list of positive words includes "happy," "yay" and "awesome," while negative words include "sad," "doubt" and "tragic."

Holidays were consistently peak happiness days, and the GNH index shot up to double the average reading the November day that the nation celebrated the election of President .

The saddest day in the GNH index was January 22, 2008, after the Asian crashed and actor Heath Ledger died of an apparent accidental drug overdose at the age of 28.

The death of King of Pop on June 25 of this year marked the second sadest day in the two years measured by the index, according to Kramer.

GNH results are currently based on updates in English but more languages may be added so indexes can be made for other nations, according to Kramer.

(c) 2009 AFP

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1 / 5 (1) Oct 06, 2009
can anyone spot the fatal flaw in this study? That tacit assumption that is not likely to be true? It's right here: "these updates are indicative of how we are collectively feeling"

this assumes all (or vastly most) are ACCURATE self-assessments, when we know from other studies that people will most often present the image they WISH to project. We also know that when randomly polled through their day, people report emotions across a broad range and so there's the additional variable that they may or may not choose THOSE particular moments of change to update their status, however many there may be through their day.

In other words, it's garbage-in/garbage-out, it tells us something about what people will, statistically, post to Facebook, and the non-randomness of it vis a vis special holidays is then very hardly surprising.

Happy Tuesday, everyone.
1 / 5 (1) Oct 06, 2009
I'm sure lots of people say "Happy
" even when they're not feeling particularly happy.
not rated yet Nov 10, 2009
teledyn: not a fatal flaw. at most a minor flaw. While reporting of subjective emotional states is less reliable than desired, it's still more reliable than a random guess. So there is information in this, it's just very noisy. You could say this measures peoples willingness to claim they are happy or sad publicly if it makes you feel better. They say IQ tests measure only the ability to do well on IQ tests using the same argument, but we know from other evidence that there is a connection.

I think this is great use of emerging technology and hope it's the start of a flood of information using similar techniques to understand social interaction and behavior in a scientific, objective and reliable method that was previously unavailable to people who use the information for good.

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