Twitter is not just useful for posting erroneous breaking news updates; it’s also useful for measuring the world’s mood, as long as you write in English and use certain words that can be counted.
In that vein, a new website has produced metrics that state April 15, 2013, the day of the Boston Marathon bombings, was the saddest day on the microblogging site in the last five years.
A new website called Hedonometer.com uses tweets to ascertain whether the global mood is positive or negative, reports LiveScience.com’s Stephanie Pappas. For negative days, the site notes tweets with words like “victims” and “tragedy,” and phrases like “hahaha” for positive tweet days, Pappas says. According to one of Hedonometer’s developers, University of Vermont mathematician Chris Danforth, the site is “trying to take advantage of people’s expressions online and measure something that is really important.”
The Hedonometer uses a sample of about 50 million tweets per day, which they call a tenth of total daily volume, going back to September 2008. The site may one day include other online tools, such as Google Trends, but so far Twitter data follows other forms of data sampling (like Gallup polls), Pappas writes.
The saddest day of them all was the date of the Boston Marathon bombings, with a happiness score of 5.88 on a scale of 1 to 9. But even though it had less-sad score, Dec. 14, 2012, the date of the mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school, may have actually been sadder, Danforth said.
That’s because the Newtown shooting happened on a Friday, a generally happy day when people otherwise would be tweeting positive vibes, he said. The Boston bombings happened on a Monday, when unrelated grouchy tweets about returning to work would have driven the average happiness down.
Don’t read too much into the data, however — it noted Osama bin Laden’s death also brought out plenty of negativity, probably because “a very negatively viewed character met a very negative end,” according to researchers.