Published: February 28, 2013
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that an academic study has found Hawaii to be the happiest state in the union.
However, it might surprise you to learn the professors’ based their study on messages posted on Twitter.
Researchers at the University of Vermont analyzed more than 10 million tweets collected in 373 urban areas during 2011.
They coded the tweets based on the frequency of certain words that appeared in the 140 character messages. Words such as “rainbow,” “love,” and “beauty” were deemed happy words, while “hate,” “ugly,” and “damn” were labeled sad words.
According to their calculations, Louisiana is the saddest state in the country. That might seem counterintuitive because of New Orleans’ international image as a party town with a very libertarian approach to entertainment.
Of course, Louisiana as a whole has its problems with hurricanes, poverty and political corruption.
The next four saddest states are Mississippi, Maryland, Delaware and Georgia.
After Hawaii, the next four happiest states are Maine, Nevada, Utah and the researchers’ own state of Vermont.
The Vermont researchers place a heavy premium on tweets with cuss words in them. They consider what they call “geoprofanity” to be a major factor in the rankings of individual cities.
Some of the “saddest” words cannot be printed in a family newspaper such as this.
One thing they’re overlooking is that some people frequently use vulgar language to describe how happy they are. For example, if one’s sports team is winning a game, a tweet about it might contain some foul language in the context of elation that the other team is being routed.
The saddest five cities are Beaumont, Tex.; Albany, Ga.; Texas City, Tex.; Shreveport, La.; and Monroe, La.
Memphis, home of blues and soul music, ranks sixth. Murfreesboro is 308th, which puts it much closer to the happy end of the scale. Nashville is 152nd, which makes it “sadder” than Murfreesboro.
It must be all that traffic, right?
The happiest five cities are Napa, Calif.; Longmont, Col.; San Clemente, Calif.; Santa Fe, N.M.; and Santa Cruz, Calif.
There’s a certain demographic disparity that some people might find inaccurate, if not downright insulting.
The researchers concluded from the tweets that people of Norwegian descent are happier than people of African descent.
Could that be due to a misinterpretation of the context in which the tweets were made? Or do Norwegian-Americans just find it easier to contain their joy within 140 characters with spaces?
Despite these issues, the academics insist their Twitter-based data confirms data collected by Gallup, which used different metrics.
Without regard to any political affiliations, the Vermont research team’s “happy map” puts sad states in varying shades of blue, happy states in varying shades of red and grey states as neutral.
Tennessee is a dusty light blue, 37th place on the overall list of states.
Could it be that we’re” blue” about being a “red” state? That would make us purple.