A team of researchers has mapped the happiest and saddest spots in New York City using Twitter tweets. New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI) published a paper this week called, Sentiment in New York City: A High Resolution Spatial and Temporal View.
Sure, it’s a long name. But don’t be scared.
What they did was analyze Twitter tweets for key words, phrases, and emoticons to capture the emotions in various parts of New York City.
The team created the maps using 600,000 tweets sent over two weeks in April 2012. They posted the full report with multiple maps online, so you’re welcome to check it out.
And you can scroll down this page for a quick look at their happiness and sadness map for Manhattan. It should be pretty easy to read. The lighter the blue, the happier the tweets.
The deeper the fuchsia, the sadder the tweets.
To a certain extent, the Twitter sadness maps were what you’d expect just based on common sense. People were happiest in parks and unhappiest in subways, traffic snarls, jails, and hospitals.
One unexpected finding was that the happiest place in New York was Times Square. And the closer you got, the happier you were. But Motherboard writer Brian Merchant pointed out that this result seemed logical because of all of the tourists arriving in Times Square as a highlight of their vacation and then tweeting happily about it.
Twitter also revealed that the saddest place in New York is Maspeth Creek, Brooklyn. That’s the site of one of the worst oil spills in an American city in US history — and it still hasn’t been cleaned up.
So how valid are the maps of happiness and sadness in New York based on Twitter tweets?
I’ve previously expressed some serious doubts about efforts to rate people’s sadness by the quality of their tweets. In February, a University of Vermont team said that an analysis of 80 million words sent on Twitter proved that Louisiana was the saddest state.
Disclosure: I live in Louisiana. But that research simply flew in the face of multiple previous studies that people in Louisiana were among the nation’s happiest.
The culture of this heavily French-influenced state is emotional. It isn’t a state full of strong, silent types. They talk a lot, and now they tweet a lot.
It doesn’t mean they’re unhappy. It means they’re verbose and tweet out more often than people who come from a culture of keeping one’s gripes to oneself.
There may be similar logical holes in the New York Twitter sadness and happiness maps.
[New York City top photo by Elaine Radford]