LOL, Haha, Hehe, Emoji … How U.S. Facebook Users Express Laughter

Do you LOL, do you haha or do you hehe? The answer to that question was no laughing matter to Facebook Research.

Do you LOL, do you haha or do you hehe? The answer to that question was no laughing matter to Facebook Research.

Researcher Udi Weinsberg, product science group leader Lada Adamic and data scientist Mike Develin were inspired by an article in The New Yorker written by Sarah Larson, which examined the way people express laughter electronically.

They studied anonymous posts on Facebook during the last week of May with at least one string of characters matching laughter, including variants of haha, hehe, LOL and emoji. Their findings included:

  • 15 percent of Facebook users included laughter in posts or comments during that week.
  • Haha was the most common, followed by emoji and hehe.

LaughterTypes

Weinsberg, Adamic and Develin also broke out the data by unique laughs, age, number of letters, gender, city and state.

They explained their study in detail in this post, and the geographic analysis follows, with charts below:

So we see that there are patterns in laughter on Facebook, but they are quite different from the anecdotal evidence presented in the New Yorker article. Then it hit us: Maybe the difference is because Ms. Larson is hanging out with cool people from New York City. So we plotted the distribution of laughter across a bunch of cities. We focus on New York, San Francisco, Boston, Phoenix, Chicago and Seattle and got the following:

LaughterTypesByCity

Indeed laughter varies by city, so we created heat maps to see the popularity of the different types of laughter across states in the U.S. For each laughter type, the map shows the fraction of laughter in each state out of the total laughter. The darker the color is, the more popular a laugh is compared to other states:

LaughterTypesByState

The maps broadly show that haha and hehe are more popular on the West Coast, emoji are the weapon of choice in the Midwest and southern states are fond of LOL. Presidential campaigns, take note: The battleground states of Ohio and Virginia are haha states, while the candidates’ emoji games will surely be key in determining who emerges victorious in Florida.

Readers: Do you find any of this funny? If so, how would you express your laughter on Facebook?

LaughterTypesByAge LaughterTypesByGender LaughterTypesNumberOfLetters NumberOfLaughs

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.