Facebook status updates tell us the emotional health of the nation and the Gross National Happiness of members. 300 million ? 400 million? of ’em.

We talk a lot about sentiment measurement in social media measurement classes. What constitutes a good sentiment, or bad. Does a computer understand sarcasm or vernacular “that car was da bomb” doesn’t mean it’s an old bomb, apparently. This is quite a different use of sentiment and Facebook:

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 and Negativity, 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.

You may notice that Positivity and Negativity are going down over time–that’s because as Facebook grows, there is more variability in the Facebook demographic and how people use status updates (using more or less emotional words). That’s why the GNH metric looks at the difference rather than the raw scores.

Facebook status update for State of the Nation emotions? This has huge implications for social psychology in the future.

Look at the holidays and which ones make a mark

Look at the holidays and which ones make a mark

Have a play with the graph on the FACEBOOK blog. You’ll see that happiness goes up on holidays – though St Patricks doesn’t do as well as others, probably because of alcohol related stuff – and negativity retreats.  It would be cool to do this graph again, for Australia, over Christmas. I might check back again then.

hat tip: AllFacebook