Washington: Twitter confirms it: People tend to wake up in a good mood and are happiest on weekends. Beyond the celebrity chatter and mundane ruminations about breakfast, Twitter is offering scientists a peek at real-time, presumably little-filtered human behavior and thoughts.
Cornell University sociologists used language software to detect the presence of positive words in 509 million tweets from 2.4 million users in 84 different countries over a two-year period.
What they found: Unless you are a night owl, a positive attitude peaks early in the morning and again near midnight, but starts to dip midmorning before rising again in the evening. Mood peaks were detected early in the day but began to dip mid-morning, about the time most people are starting their workdays.
You might think, going to work and related hassles like traffic explain that pattern. After all, there was more positive tweeting on the weekend, even though the morning peak of happy tweets occurred two hours later, probably because people slept late. Not quite. Work-related stress may play some role, but it cannot explain why that same midday dip occurs on the weekend, too, said lead researcher Scott Golder, a Cornell graduate student.
Instead, the pattern probably is due to the effects of sleep and our 24-hour biological clock, the so-called circadian rhythms that signal when it is time to sleep and to wake, Golder and Cornell sociologist Michael Macy reported.
Another positive peak was witnessed around midnight, followed by a “sharp drop in NA (negative affect, including distress, fear, anger, guilt, and disgust) during the overnight hours,” said the study in the journal, Science.
The highest numbers of good mood words indicating enthusiasm, delight, activeness, and alertness were found on Saturdays and Sundays, “which points to possible effects of work-related stress, less sleep, and earlier wake time.”
Samples from predominantly Muslim countries, where the weekends are on different days, such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), showed the same patterns on Fridays and Saturdays as seen in other countries on Saturdays and Sundays.
Previous research has linked the biological clock and mood, but was based mostly on small studies of American college students. There are cautions about studying Twitter postings, too: Their authors tend to be younger than the general population and may be more affluent, better educated and different in yet-to-be-discovered ways.
Still, the study’s bigger message is about the scientific potential of social media, Macy said. Other researchers have turned to Twitter to study political campaigning, to blog postings and Twitter feeds to study emotions, and to Google searches of flu symptoms to predict outbreaks. “It illustrates a new opportunity for doing social and behavioral science in ways that were really unimaginable even five years ago,” Macy said.
English was the only language analyzed, though users came from across the globe.
However, modern technology’s answer to every emotion - the smiley or sad face emoticon - was of little help in the analysis, because “usage was too sparse to be able to detect a consistent pattern,” said the study.