California is a happy place, according to whatever can be inferred from 300 million tweets.
Researchers at Northeastern and Harvard examined the tweets over three years (September 2006 to August 2009). Knowing they could rely on users for wild mood swings and emotionally charged rants/raves packed into 140-character outbursts, they looked for certain words that indicated a person's mood and combined that data with information from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Google Maps API and other resources.
What they ended up with was a fascinating visualization showing the pulse of our nation, our very moods as they fluctuate over time. The researchers have put this information into density-preserving cartograms, maps that take the volume of tweets into account when representing land area.
That's why the map is pinched in less populated areas and bloated on the coasts like a lop-sided butterfly.
Green on the maps means "Happy." Red indicates "Less Happy." There's a lot of green -- and something like a nice, emotionally stable cream color -- in California.
Maybe it's the weather, or maybe we're kidding ourselves, but California is a bundle of joy when compared to the seaboard full of rage on the East Coast (minus blissful Florida).
The time-lapse video shows mood variations throughout the day. In summary: We're happy in the morning (hopes and dreams abound), then not happy (hopes and dreams crushed under weight of reality/freeway traffic), then happy again (crushed hopes and dreams forgotten during happy hour).
And because "I'm happy" and "I'm less happy" don't always capture an individual's emotional state, researchers used this 49-page manual: "Affective Norms for English Words." It rates emotion expressed by words.
For example, "kitten" and "snuggle" are happier words than "syphilis" and "terrorist."
And at the end of the day, it's always nice to hear someone tell you, kitten snuggle pink bunny hug daffodil.