In October, Facebook’s data scientists began using status updates to create a rough measure of the happiness expressed by English Speakers in the United States. Now, the company is expanding its index to three other English-speaking nations: U.K., Australia, and Canada.
“Measuring how well-off, happy or satisfied with life the citizens of a nation are is part of the Gross National Happiness movement,” the company stated a bit self-importantly in a blog post last October. “When people in their status updates use more positive words--or fewer negative words--then that day as a whole is counted as happier than usual.”
While the kind of temporary sentiment expressed in status updates is a pretty suspect indicator of true happiness, the project is yielding some entertaining findings:
All Four Countries
- Turns out we all like Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day.
- Negativity is trending down overtime. Facebook thinks this is due there being more older people on the service (another reason to oppose euthanasia—gramps is a happiness generator!) and maybe the economic recovery.
- Deaths of celebrities like Heath Leger and Michael Jackson make us say sad things.
- Everyone likes Sunday more than Monday.
Canadians are happier the day before Canadian Thanksgiving than on the actual Canadian Thanksgiving Day. (Course, they celebrate it on a Monday--see the last bullet point.)
- Canadians are slightly affected by American Holidays like July 4th and American Thanksgiving. (Kinda sweet.)
Aussie happiness plummeted the day the prime minister apologized in Parliament to indigenous Australians, because of so many “sorry’s” in the updates. This says more about how little the index actually has to do with real happiness than anything else.
Happiness levels have the least variation in the U.K. Apparently you can’t express emotion, even in writing, if you never move your lips.
Facebook says the index controls for how language is used differently across nations, and as a result it can't make meaningful comparisons between nations' happiness levels.