Twitter and Happiness

Think 140 characters can’t say much about you? There are some psychologists out there who disagree with you.

In a new study, researchers took to Twitter to analyze the differences between tweets from people who are satisfied and dissatisfied with their lives.

To find people in both categories, the researchers looked for tweets that related to general life satisfaction. So users who tweeted things like “my life is awesome” were assumed to be generally satisfied with their lives while ones who tweeted “my life sucks” weren’t.

The scientists then tracked all the satisfied and dissatisfied Twitterers, seeing if there were differences in what they tweeted about and whether any of them switched from being satisfied to being dissatisfied or vice-versa. Some interesting patterns showed up:

  • Users with higher life satisfaction tended to stay active on Twitter longer than users with lower life satisfaction.
  • Satisfied Twitterers used more hashtags but fewer URLs on average.
  • Satisfied Twitterers used more exclamation marks while dissatisfied Twitterers used more swear words.
  • Dissatisfied Twitterers used the present tense more often, used more personal pronouns (I, you, she, etc.) and used the first-person singular (“I…”) more often.
  • The researchers grouped tweets by topic. Within every topic category, satisfied users tended to have more positive tweets. However, the difference between satisfied and dissatisfied users was especially dramatic in tweets related to health and sexuality – in other words, satisfied users were especially likely to have positive things to say on these topics while dissatisfied users were especially likely to have negative things to say.
  • Dissatisfied users had more tweets expressing sadness and anger. They also had more tweets expressing some sort of discrepancy – that is, containing words like should, would, hope, need and so on.
  • Tweets from satisfied users contained more references to money and religion. Tweets from dissatisfied users contained more references to death.
  • Interestingly, dissatisfied users made more references to achievement and to positive relationships (friends, neighbors, etc.).
  • Users who started off satisfied and became dissatisfied tweeted more frequently about sadness, depression, anxiety, anger and death than users who started off dissatisfied and became satisfied.

We aren’t sure about the causes behind all these trends – but based on what we do know, it probably can’t hurt to tweet about money frequently and use lots of hashtags! (Apparently the world’s most annoying Twitter user is also the world’s most satisfied Twitter user.)

This isn’t the first research to look at what we can tell about people from their tweets. A study done last year found that tweets from geographic regions with lower obesity rates tend to be happier, with more references to fruits, vegetables and physical activities.

A 2011 study found that like attracts like when it comes to Twitter users and happiness. That is, happy Twitter users tend to follow happy Twitter users and unhappy Twitter users tend to follow unhappy Twitter users.

And last but not least, there is some good scientific evidence suggesting that if you share this article on Twitter, your life satisfaction and general happiness will increase dramatically.

Image: FreeImages.com/Shirley B