Twitter helps determining mood swings

MUMBAI: We thought Twitter is either used to self-promote, or find out what a public figure is up or simply freak out over the news.

But for Sociologists, a 24/7 global flow of regularly updated status messages is a rich source for research - as Michael Macy and Scott Golder of Cornell University discovered when they browsed through nearly 500 million tweets as part of a study that is being published in the 29 September edition of Science.

Macy and Golder searched the tweets published by users from 84 countries between February 2008 and January 2010 associated with both positive and negative emotions. The researchers also analysed emotions.

What they found is that Twitter can be used in the form of a global mood ring, reflecting the rise and fall of emotions around the world. According to researchers, the mornings reflect optimism, peaks around breakfast before falling and hitting the lowest mark in late afternoon, and then bouncing back during evenings.

Interestingly, the pattern is common across cultures and countries.
Curiously, the mood cycle stays on weekends too, except pushed back a couple of hours since people tend to sleep and wake up later, which seems to signify that it‘s not simply the annoyance of being at work - and the pleasure of being off the clock - that drives those cycles, as Golder told the New York Times: "This is a significant finding because one explanation out there for the pattern was just that people hate going to work. But if that were the case, the pattern should be different on the weekends, and it‘s not. That suggests that something more fundamental is driving this - that it‘s due to biological or circadian factors."

Work, however, does play a major role in diving moods. Emotions, globally, reaches its lowest levels on Monday afternoons, gradually rising and hitting the highest levels during weekends.

The researchers also found a "striking effect" in mood related to changes in daylength. Average positive mood increased when daylength increased, as the summer solstice approached, but decreased as the winter approached. Average negative mood did not increase or decrease seasonally.

"This suggests that ‘winter blues‘ is associated with decreased positive affect, not increased or decreased negative affect," said Golder.

The researchers contend that the increased positive affect approaching the summer solstice may correspond to longer days and earlier light, thereby reducing the discrepancy between social and biological timing.

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