Thinking Tech

Twitter proves the world wakes up in a good mood

Posting in Science

Scientists tracked the moods of 2.4 million people around the world using Twitter. Their findings show we may be happiest when we wake up.

Rise and shine is the morning cheerleader chant, but most rise without any shine. These days we are overworked and sleep deprived. Work issues and family obligations appear to enter our sleepy minds the minute we open our eyes. But apparently the opposite is true, according to a study to be released tomorrow in the journal Science. The world wakes up in a good mood!

But then, unfortunately, the global mood takes a turn for the worse when the workday starts and continues to deteriorate as the day goes on. Hm. No surprise I guess.

The researchers from Cornell University used Twitter and language software to track the moods of 2.4 million people in 84 countries for two years.

They found that there are two daily peaks for positive mood. Early in the morning and then later around midnight. The down period was the workday. And this pattern remained consistent each weekday.

Generally more happy tweets came through on weekends. Although the morning peaks started two hours later than weekdays. Not surprising, since the sleep debt accrued during the week needs payback eventually. (That's the thing about sleep: We can’t cheat it. Studies have shown that extreme sleep deprivation leads to disease and death.) It’s worth highlighting though, that the weekday pattern of two peaks, one in morning and then another during the late night, also showed up on weekends.

The results suggest that work-related stress may be the correlate to the drop in the happy scale during the daily work hours. Another important point is the fact that the a similar pattern showed up on weekends, when many are not working. This suggests that sleep and our biological clock do have a significant impact on our moods.

Perhaps most amazing the results show up across the globe, in various cultures and geography. Even in the United Arab Emirates where the work week shifts slightly from the universal norm of Monday through Friday, to Sunday through Thursday, the same pattern emerged. Twitterers were happiest in the mornings, then later at night, and they were most happy on non-work days when they were not only free but also getting more sleep.

The researchers used Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count, a software that monitors the nature and quantity of words associated with positive and negative affect, anxiousness, anger and inhibiton. They analyzed 509 million messages written between February 2008 and January 2010.

To be sure, this was based on Twitter comments. So there are limitations on variables involved. The researchers had very little data on occupation, demographics, access to social support, all variables that impact how much sleep or good mood one might generally enjoy.

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Christie Nicholson

Contributing Writer

Christie Nicholson produces and hosts Scientific American's podcasts 60-Second Mind and 60-Second Science and is an on-air contributor for Slate, Babelgum, Scientific American, Discovery Channel and Science Channel. She has spoken at MIT/Stanford VLAB, SXSW Interactive, the National Science Foundation, the National Research Council, the Space Studies Board and Brookhaven National Laboratory. She holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Dalhousie University in Canada. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure