We’re Happier When We’re Farther From Home, Twitter Patterns Show

By Breanna Draxler | May 2, 2013 12:47 pm

Scientists have a pretty good idea about when people are happiest. Just check out the spikes that occur every Christmas on this happiness graph. But in a recent study, researchers sought to find out where people are happiest. And they used Twitter to do it.

The researchers compiled data from 37 million random, geolocated tweets written by 180,000 different people in the United States during the year 2011. They analyzed the tweets to find out three things about their senders: average movement, location and happiness.

Average movement essentially measures how big a person’s normal, everyday bubble is—how far they tend to travel on a regular basis. Think daily commute and regular haunts. The second measure was the distance that a tweeter was from his or her usual work/home route when composing a tweet. This is more along the lines of a trip or vacation. The third measure—happiness—relied on something called a hedonometer, a tool that attempts to quantify happiness.

The hedonometer works remotely and in real time by analyzing the average happiness score of words contained in tweets. The 10,000 most commonly used English words all have a score on a scale of one (sad) to nine (happy). In this study tweets weren’t scored individually but in aggregate: all the words used by tweeters in a particular group (those close to home, far from home, etc.) were tallied up, averaged, and then compared.

Some of the findings were predictable: most people spend most of their time in one of two locations: work or home. And people tend to send fewer tweets from work than from home. But other findings were more subtle.

People who have a higher average movement tended to laugh more than those who tended to stick closer to home—or at least they included “hahaha” more often in their texts. In contrast, those close to home laughed more often than those far away.

Overall, the happiest tweets were those composed far from home. Messages sent from 1,500 miles or more away included more positive and food-related words (beach, new, great, park, restaurant) and fewer negative or profane ones (no, don’t, hate, can’t, damn). The next happiest group of tweeters were those close to their homes, who used more words like lol, love, like and good. The least happy tweeters were those who weren’t quite at home but weren’t far from it, either. The researchers associated this distance (about half a mile) with a bummer of a daily commute. The results of the study were published online at arXiv.org earlier this month.

So, even if you can’t take a vacation in the near future, remember the moral of the story, as the study frames it: “Individuals with a large radius use happier words than those with a smaller pattern of life.”

If you’re happy and you know it, send your tweet.


Image courtesy of arek_malang/Shutterstock

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: emotions, happiness
  • TexCIS

    Malarky. This a poorly designed study if I ever saw one, full of observer bias. They didn’t ask people where they were happiest, the just used selected words. It’s the “younger generation” who uses Twitter more. They’re the ones who like to be away from “home.” Plus, people are more likely to brag about and take pictures of things on vacation. Older folks have spent a lot of time making their homes comfortable, and they’re happier to be home. They just don’t tweet about it.

  • http://twitter.com/tikkiweb Barry Tikkanen

    Twitter and extroverts have always seemed to have a positive correlation. Similar to the strong positive correlation to happiness away from home among extroverts, such as in public. I would be more impressed by the study if the ratio between introverts and extroverts were known, especially with a comparison to the general population.

  • http://twitter.com/SocraticGadfly SocraticGadfly

    So, scientists have caught up with sages and philosophers and discovered that familiarity breeds contempt. Carry on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scojohnson Scott Johnson

    I purposely live 1500 miles away from my family, I don’t have any of their in-fighting problems, negativity, bitching & moaning, etc. People that never “leave the nest” of their hometown, don’t seem to explore much, and spend too much of their life wrapped up into their other (family members) crap.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Sara Polis

    Am I the only who thinks the title does not much the results of the study?

    It says people with the higher movement radius are happier. It does not say “We are happier when we are farther from home” Here’s what is says:

    “People who have a higher average movement tended to laugh more than those who tended to stick closer to home….. In contrast, those close to home laughed more often than those far away.

    So your home can be far from your original family but you still stick close to home and are miserable.. while people who have a good range radius…. are happier.

    It advices taking vacations not moving away from original family although that might be another good idea for some.

    p.s. the other points I was going to mention have been very well said by other (Tex & Barry)


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