Sunday, December 19, 2010

How Much Are People Smiling in the US, Germany, and Switzerland?

Who are happier, people in Switzerland, in Germany, or in the US? To answer this question, I looked at the use of smiley’s in Twitter tweets – smileys are those emoticons used to express one’s emotions like
:) smile
:D big grin
:( sad, frown
:P sticking the tongue out, “raspberry”

My hypothesis is that the larger the fraction of happy smileys :) and :D in all tweets containing emoticons is, the happier people in this region are.

Using Condor’s Twitter collector, I collected 24 hours worth of tweets containing the smileys listed above in 6 cities in three countries: New York and Los Angeles (USA), Berlin and Hamburg (Germany) and Zurich and Berne (Switzerland). I collected all tweets inside a radius of 25 kilometers around the geocoordinates of these 6 cities returned by Google.

The table below lists the results, showing the number of people using each emoticon in each city, as well as the betweenness centrality of the emoticon in the social network of people using it.

As we can see, there are not too many people tweeting in Berne, compared to the people in New York, which makes perfect sense, considering the number of inhabitants of Berne (130,000) compared to New York’s 19 million.

I constructed the retweet network in Condor, drawing a link from person A to person B, if B retweeted A (see network picture above). The table only lists the number of people, ignoring the number of tweets per person, as I was interested in the emotional state of each person.
The picture below visualizes the results. Percentages in the pie charts for each type of smiley are based on betweenness centrality of the people using these smileys. This also accounts for the influence of somebody who for example used two different types of smileys and is being retweeted a lot.

A few things immediately stand out:

(1) The Europeans seem much happier than the Americans!
(2) Germans seem slightly happier than the Swiss, although not by much.
(3) People in Hamburg are the happiest (68% happy smileys ":)" and ":D"), followed by the people in Zurich.
(4) People in Berne have the biggest smile (30% have ":D").
(5) People in New York are the least happy (23% of ":(") with a large margin to all other cities.
(6) People in LA are the most skeptical (27% sticking their tongue out ":P").

When looking at the most active tweeter in each of the cities, it is amazing that most are young girls and artists mostly from Indonesia. For example the most emotional person in Hamburg (130 tweets) is “Bijiganja”, an Indonesian singer and “sinner”, as can be read on his profile on Myspace. The most emotional tweeter in Berne is a girl from Brazil. This means that the good mood in Switzerland and Germany might actually be imported from other regions of the World, where people traditionally are more extrovert than the somewhat reserved Germans and Swiss.

This is very different in the US. In New York, the most active emotional tweeter is a disc jockey and radio host, mostly promoting himself, while Actress and singer ciara is the most active tweeter in LA. This shows that Twitter in the US seems to be much more used as a platform for (commercial) self-promotion, although not a particularly happy one!
Let’s hope that the mood will pick up also in the US – after all there are a lot of people from Asia and Latin America here that might improve the collective mood!

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