Home is Where the Heart is, but Traveling Makes Us Happier

Rachel Ramsey : Social Spotlight
Rachel Ramsey
Graduated from James Madison University with a B.A. in Media Arts and Design and a minor in Communication Studies
| Welcome to Social Spotlight! When I'm not covering a variety of technology and communications industries - everything from the cloud and VoIP to customer relationship management and data centers - you will find me on social media. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, foursquare, YouTube, Tumblr... you name it, I'm there

Home is Where the Heart is, but Traveling Makes Us Happier

Regardless of if you’re flying internationally, road tripping cross-country or sitting in traffic on a Greyhound bus, traveling is always an adventure. Combine the growing number of Wi-Fi networks and Internet-enabled mobile devices with social media accounts and jet-setting travelers, and you no longer have to wonder what that adventure entails.

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube and Vine are all outlets that let travelers share their experiences with all of their connections. I don’t know about you, but when I get time off from my everyday life to explore the world, I’m a very happy person. Researchers from the University of Vermont tend to agree.

Morgan Frank, Lewis Mitchell, Peter Dodds and Christopher Danforth recently analyzed 37 million tweets from 180,000 individuals to see how the sentiments people express over Twitter change as they move further away from their average location. Turns out, we’re further away we are, the happier we become -- or at least on Twitter.

People tweet largely from two locations: work and home. The research found that people in cities tend to travel over a larger area than people who live in less densely populated areas.

Using an established scale of happiness associated with common words, the researchers measured the sentiments of each tweet based on location. Tweets that were written thousands of kilometers from an individuals’ expected location are more likely to contain the words “beach,” “great,” “restaurant and less likely to contain negative words such as “no,” “don’t” and “hate.” Researchers say the biggest difference in expressed happiness levels is the result of the reduced use of these negative words when further from home.

This isn’t the first time Twitter sentiments have been measured and analyzed. A team at the Vermont Complex Systems center recently posted a report, “The Geography of Happiness: Connecting Twitter sentiment and expression, demographics, and objective characteristics of place,” which studied the correlations between real-time expressions of individuals across the U.S. and a wide range of emotional, geographic, demographic and health characteristics.

The report analyzed more than 80 million words generated over the course of several recent years on Twitter, revealing the happiest states (Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Utah and Vermont) and saddest states (Louisiana, Mississippi, Maryland, Michigan and Delaware.) Similar to the University of Vermont study, this report based its analysis on the appearance and frequency of words such as rainbow, love, beauty, hope, wonderful and wine to determine happiness and words like damn, boo, ugly, smoke, hate and lied to determine sadness.

“Of course, an important caveat is that expressed happiness is not the same as actual happiness,” MIT Technology Review explained. “But nevertheless, this kind of analysis clearly gives sociologists an unprecedented new window into the human psyche.”
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