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Study Finds Twitter Content Increasingly Depressed Since Early 2009

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If you’ve felt a bit of a negative vibe on Twitter over the past couple of years, it’s not just in your head.

A study out of Vermont finds that an analysis of tweets over the past nearly three-year long period reveals growing dissatisfaction and ennui among users of the microblogging service about life in general. Scientists from the University of Vermont culled data over a few years from Twitter, and found a marked decline in general merriment from April 2009 on- the rather clinical-sounding results of a “happiness graph” were published earlier this month in the journal PLoS ONE, and researchers commented:

Scientists found that following a “gradual upward trend that ran from January to April 2009,” happiness levels began to plummet, declining more markedly in early 2011. Psych Central explains how the tweets were analyzed:

Words used included everything from “the” to “pancakes” to “suicide.” To get a sense of the emotional gist of various words, the researchers used a service from Amazon called Mechanical Turk. On this website, they paid a group of volunteers to rate, from one to nine, their sense of the “happiness” — the emotional temperature — of the 10,000 most common words in English. Averaging their scores, the volunteers rated, for example, “laughter” at 8.50, “food” 7.44, “truck” 5.48, “greed” 3.06 and “terrorist” 1.30.

Researchers likened the microblogging service to a “pulse” of feelings for humanity in general, given the broad demographic found on Twitter currently.