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Study ranks Gainesville 242nd happiest city in U.S. through tweets


By Sean Stewart-MunizWUFT contributor

Gainesville is the 242nd happiest city in the nation, according to one report which analyzed social media.

The study, published last week by University of Vermont researchers, analyzed tweets to map the moods of urban areas.

Researchers collected 10 million geotagged tweets in 2011 in 373 urban areas.

Gainesville ranks 20th in Florida for happiness, ahead of Tallahassee and other landlocked regions, but behind coastal cities like Miami and St. Augustine. The study found coastal cities tend to be happier than inland urban areas.

Jordan Meyer, director of communications and marketing for the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, said Gainesville’s ranking seems too low based on his experience with its residents.

Meyer said a study like this is inaccurate and subjective in judging happiness.

“Happiness is a tough thing to judge,” Meyer said. “You need a credible source; with a study like this it’s not exactly scientific.”

Tweets were judged by the individual words they contained. Words were ranked on a happiness scale from one to nine, with the most positive words scoring the highest. Word frequency was measured and put into a formula to determine the general happiness of a city.

Words such as “lol,” “love,” “beach” and “congratulations” scored positively, while profanity and words like “arrested,” “crying,” “headache” and “unemployment” scored negatively. “Rainbow” and “earthquake” were some of the highest ranked for happiness and sadness, respectively.

According to the study, Gainesville’s most frequent happy words were “lol,” “Florida” and “love,” and its unhappiest words were “don’t,” “can’t” and “no.” Gainesville’s tweets also contained less profanity than the national average.

The study found Beaumont, Texas, is the last on the list, and Napa, Calif. is at the top as more cheerful than any other city.

Florida’s overall ranking was 14th happiest in the nation, with Hawaii in the lead and Louisiana trailing last.

Bruce Floyd, social media specialist at the University of Florida, said the study might not adequately represent happiness because it doesn’t judge the context of the tweets.

Floyd said someone sourced from a foreign country might not have the same humor or sarcasm as someone from the United States and could judge a word differently than its intended use.

He also said the study depends entirely on an individual’s tweeting tendencies. A person could rush to post about having a bad day but could be more reserved about his or her more positive emotions or vice versa.

Juanita Colorado, freshman anthropology major, said the large population of students in Gainesville and the stress related to school probably accounts for why Gainesville was ranked so low in the nation.

“When you look around, people seem to be pretty happy,” Colorado said. “But I guess they might tweet differently.”

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