Tweet This! Real News Discovers the Concept of Hidden in Plain Sight

December 31, 2020

Remember the Purloined Letter? No, that’s okay. Thumbtypers don’t either. I read “Just How Bad Was This Year? These Professors Found Answers on Twitter.” I noted this passage:

Since 2008, the duo [professors at a school in Vermont] has taken a random 10 percent of everything tweeted each day, seeking truths hidden in plain sight. (Whileacknowledging, as Danforth put it, that “Twitter is a nonuniform subsample of utterances made by a nonuniform subsample of humans whoare on the Internet.”) They’ve used it, for example, to explore fame, finding that DonaldTrump and K-pop band BTS are mentioned as commonly as some regular words (think: “after,” “would.”). As Dodds put it, “The word‘Trump’ has been in the top 300 words all year this year, which he’s never done before. That’s more common than the word ‘God.’ ”

The sampling is done by the Hedonometer, possible a reference to either a town in England or a unit of pleasure used to theoretically weigh people’s happiness. I like the latter candidate, split infinitive, and the weird idea of “weighing” happiness. I often say to the grocery clerk in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky, “I will take a pound of happiness and a half pound of ricotta, please.”

The big find seems to be:

Some trends have emerged through the years. All else being equal,Saturday is the week’s happiest day on Twitter, Tuesday the saddest.National holidays cause huge spikes in happiness, with Christmas beingthe most cheerful. Major sporting events and birthdays of pop stars,particularly K-pop stars, tend to make for gleeful days. On the flipside, natural disasters and mass shootings tend to spark more unhappydays.

What’s the analysis reveal?

“In the last five years, we’ve seen the usual weekly cycle justget busted,” Dodds added. “It’s sort of all over the place now.Events are happening any day of the week. It’s much more what Iwould call emotional turbulence.”

Remarkable in a way, a modest way.

Stephen E Arnold, December 31, 2020


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