Facebook Knows When America Is Happy

FacebookGNH.jpgDon’t worry, be happy, and Facebook will measure it. The social-networking site announced on its blog that it created the Gross National Happiness index, which uses information culled from Facebook status updates to take the pulse of the United States as a whole.

Adam D.I. Kramer, an intern on Facebook’s data team, wrote in the blog post that happiness spikes on holidays such as Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July, Halloween, Christmas and Easter, adding that Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008—the day the United States celebrated the election of President Barack Obama—more than doubled the happiness of the average Wednesday.

Conversely, Kramer wrote, the two lowest days were Jan. 22, 2008, when the Asian stock market crashed and actor Heath Ledger died, and June 25, 2009, when Michael Jackson died.

Kramer wrote:

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. So earlier this year, data scientists at Facebook started a project to measure the overall mood of people from the United States on Facebook, based on the sentiment expressed in status updates.

The result was an index that measures how happy people on Facebook are from day-to-day by looking at the number of positive and negative words they’re using when updating their status. When people in their status updates use more positive words—or fewer negative words—then that day as a whole is counted as happier than usual.