Facebook and Happiness
Article by George Norman
On 13 Oct 2009
We continue our coverage of the popular social networking site Facebook today by presenting something that is a bit more lighthearted than fighting money scams. It seems that Facebook is preoccupied with how happy its users are – as a little side note, the number of Facebook accounts exceeded the 300 million mark as of September 15.

“Every day, through Facebook status updates, people share how they feel with those who matter most in their lives. These updates are tiny windows into how people are doing. They're brief, to the point, and descriptive of what's going on this week, today or right now. Grouped together, these updates are indicative of how we are collectively feeling. At Facebook, we're always looking for ways to help people better understand the world around them, and we're interested in how people express their emotions with one other and the world,” commented Facebook Data Team member, Adam D. I. Kramer.

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Earlier this year, with happiness in mind, a bunch of scientists launched a project that would measure the overall mood of Facebook users in the good old US of A. The measurements were based on what sentiment the user expressed in the status update. When people use positive words, or alternatively they do not use as many negative words as usual, then that particular day is considered happier than usual. There is even an index that takes a look at the status updates of Facebook users in the US – see here.

The index looks at positive words like happy, yay, awesome and at negative words like sad, doubt, and tragic and measures the level of happiness amongst Facebook users in the US. So far it came to light that Facebook users are happier during national holidays (4th of July, Thanksgiving), social holidays (Halloween) and religious holidays (Christmas, Easter).

“The current result is notable since it is based on the updates of all English-speaking U.S. Facebook users. In this sense, it can count as an indicator of "Gross National Happiness," a metric only measured currently via Gallup polls and national surveys in countries such as France and Bhutan. To protect your privacy, no one at Facebook actually reads the status updates in the process of doing this research; instead, our computers do the word counting after all personally identifiable information has been removed,” added Kramer.

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Tags: Facebook, Social Networking, Happiness
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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