It’s been quite a year. And with many of us confined to our homes for some portion of 2020, social media has been our way of expressing how we feel to the world. Opening Twitter often seems like it gives you an insight into the collective mood of the internet. As it turns out, there’s a website that actually quantifies how Twitter is feeling.
Run by researchers from the University of Vermont’s Computation Story Lab, the Hedonometer uses publicly available tweets to get a temperature check (sometimes literally) how people are feeling on the website.
“Our Hedonometer is based on people’s online expressions, capitalizing on data-rich social media, and we’re measuring how people present themselves to the outside world,” the tool’s website reads.
And the website even takes this a step further: the website graphs the collective mood of Twitter against big world events.
According to the site, high points of the year have been New Year’s Day, Mother’s Day and Independence Day.
And the the lowlights have been the protests against police brutality around the world, the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic and the death of Qasem Soleimani.
The website will even break down why a day is happier or sadder than usual.
How does the Hedonometer measure Twitter’s mood?
The website uses a Twitter API feed to randomly sample 10% of the website’s tweets each day — of which there are apparently 500 million!
But it’s important to note that this does not include every language group on Twitter. The Hedonmeter can only measure the mood of tweets in Arabic, German, English, Spanish, French, Indonesian, Korean, Portuguese and Russian. They are separated and the Hedonmeter lets you choose which you’d like to measure.
So let’s say we’re using English. After weeding out tweets that aren’t in comprehensible English, the instrument averages the happiness score for each of the roughly 200 million English words tweeted to come up with a overall average for the day.
The happiness score for the 10,000 most frequent words from Google Books, the New York Times, music lyrics and tweets was created by paying Amazon’s Mechanical Turk workers to score the happiness of each word on a nine point scale.
And while not everyone uses Twitter, the researchers say it’s pretty representative of the general public.
“However, there are hundreds of millions of people presently using the website to express their activities and interests, and as such it is an important social signal,” they wrote.