My friend Frederik e-mailed me yesterday talking about the Facebook Happiness Index – although I had read the post on FB’s blog, I had never played with the app, but I did this morning. In Facebook’s own description:
Every day, millions of people share how they feel with the people who matter the most in their lives through status updates on Facebook. 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. Measuring how well-off, happy, or satisfied with life the citizens of a nation are is part of the Gross National Happiness movement. 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. (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.)The graph contains several metrics. The first, GNH, represents our measure of Gross National Happiness. The other two, Positivity andNegativity, represent the two components of GNH: The extent to which words used on that day were positive and negative. Gross National Happiness is the difference between the positivity and negativity scores, though they are interesting to view on their own.The same model is applied separately to each country we analyze. Each model is thus calibrated differently, which eliminates effects due to differences in the countries’ population and language use. This ensures that the graphs are as accurate as possible, but also precludes us from making meaningful comparisons between the countries’ happiness levels.
Maybe our politicians should play with it, too, as – mechanical as it may sound – it attempts to measure the well being of Facebook users by counting positive and negative terms in status updates. Rough? Yes. Meaningful? This is the chart looking at the negative component of this crude sentiment analysis over the last two years. Don’t look at the numbers, look at the trend.