Twitter finds West Coast is happier than East

Researchers from Harvard and Northeastern quantify and visualize happiness by examining tweets. A happier West Coast is among their conclusions.

People on the East Coast whine and socially climb until their entrails are mazes of envy, sleeplessness, and dubious mind-fooling substances. They look over their shoulders so much that their necks and minds are permanently twisted. And then there's the weather.

Well, at least that was my personal experience when I lived in New York. And now it is largely supported by research performed by some very possibly whining and social-climbing researchers from Harvard and Northeastern universities.

These fine and troubled minds were determined to ascertain just how happy Americans are. And, because they needed to place their fingers upon every wrist of American humanity in order to be sure of its pulse, they turned to Twitter.

The New Scientist tells me that the hard-working researchers analyzed 300 million tweets to determine just when and where people are happiest and saddest in the United States.

What they found was, very unsurprisingly, that the the highly civilized, caring, relaxed, open-minded, very relaxed after lunch, prettier, and more delectable West Coast is "significantly happier" than the miserable gulag of greed that is the East.

Surely anyone who has lived on both coasts knows that the East has little to commend it. While Easterners might tout their seasons, the truth is that fall and spring are, at best, six weeks combined. The remainder of the year is filled with the damp and cold of a serial killer's deserted house and the thick, humid air of a motivational speaker's sauna.

How could anyone be happy, giving and loving in that sort of climate?

It surely shows in the differing styles of entrepreneurship. Out west, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt all have an essentially laid-back nature, often fascinated by Eastern philosophies and alternative ways of life.

Your average East Coast entrepreneur prides himself on harshness. Surely you have watched "Celebrity Apprentice." Could you really imagine a phrase like "it's all good" emerging from New York? There would surely be more likelihood of the phrase "it's all godawful" gaining currency there.

Though the level of happiness varies significantly from East Coast to West, they are still both populated by human beings. Every American, the research showed, tends to feel more joy at certain times of day than at others. The pattern, in terms of times of day, seems to be consistent. It's just that the intensity is far stronger on the Left Coast.

In case you haven't felt it for yourself, Americans are happiest on Sunday mornings and at their most despairing on Thursday nights. This would seem to me entirely in line with whether they have something to look forward to on the weekends, as do most West Coasters, or whether they must wade through a coating of slush or a wall of thick air, possibly to go to work.

The researchers used a system called Affective Norms for English Words, which rates specific words according to their emotional weight. And I have embedded a mood movie made by these academics that shows just how America's emotions swing as the day wears on.

I do appreciate that New York does not represent the whole of the East Coast, just as San Francisco doesn't quite encompass all that is true about the West Coast. There are, indeed, civilized Eastern parts, such as south Florida and very small areas of Massachusetts. Just as there are slightly less civilized parts of California like Bakersfield and Newport Beach.

But here is the essential comparison: would you rather wake up to sunshine, fresh air, and a hint of tofu in the air? Or would you rather be nudged from your stupor by dark clouds, the screaming of an angry pedestrian, and the clunking of an early 20th century air conditioning unit?

Is it any wonder that this massive disparity in quality of life is reflected in real time by the contents of tweets?

 

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