Goodbye mood rings and hello Twitter. A recent study by sociologists at Cornell University shows posts on social media websites can actually predict moods.
The study collected Twitter messages from more than 2 million people in 84 countries. Using a technique called “sentiment analysis,” the sociologists found messages seemed to follow a consistent pattern. The analysis said moods are affected by a greater biological rhythm across the globe.
In a typical day, one might remember waking up grumpy, getting happier as lunch break approaches, feeling like the day dragged on in the afternoon, and then picking up speed near bedtime. The study discovered these mood changes are universal around the globe.
But what is the value of such a study?
Dr. Derek Hansen, an assistant professor of computer and information science at BYU, said sentiment analysis is increasingly being used by social scientists as well as marketing companies to measure emotions associated with texts across all social platforms.
Social media trends has even prompted the Information Technology program at BYU to create a whole new emphasis to study social computing. Hansen will offer a class next semester titled “Web and Social Media Analytics.” He said the class will conduct sentiment analysis studies for discussions around BYU.
“The main practical benefit promised by sentiment analysis is that companies [or politicians] can use it to track the ‘mood’ around their company [or campaign],” Hansen said. “For example, a politician could monitor tweets that mention his name and apply that sentiment analysis to determine if they go up or down depending on various events such as presidential debates.”
Coleman Scholz, an accounting student from Ashburn, Va., said he is excited to see people’s online activity analyzed.
“I think it is really cool that people are putting our social media activity to good use,” Scholz said. “If you put it on Facebook or Twitter, anybody has a right to look at it. If you’re afraid of what your putting out there in cyberspace, don’t put it out there. I think it’s great that studies are being done with the data.”