Louisiana: Saddest State?

Is Louisiana the saddest state in the union? The Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Vermont drew that conclusion from a massive new study of over 80 million words sent by Twitter users.

The study stands in stark contradiction to a 2009 survey of 1.3 million US citizens. Jeanna Bryner for Live Sciencereported then that researchers Andrew Oswald and Stephen Wu found that Louisiana was the happiest state.

Louisiana Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne gave local radio station WWL his rebuttal to the Vermont report: “We’re a very happy people. Louisiana is filled with ‘joie de vivre,’ love of life, and people who wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

One problem with the so-called Twitter study pops out right away to this Louisiana resident. The number crunchers claim that, “Areas with a higher density of tweets per capita tend to be less happy.” The accompanying chart shows that New Orleans, Shreveport, Monroe, and Alexandria are all heavy users of Twitter, as is nearby east Texas town of Beaumont.

Really? We’re oh-so-sad here in Louisiana, and the evidence is…we tweet a lot? Say what?

I would suggest to the Vermont researchers that they have no clue about Louisiana culture. Couldn’t the emotive tweeting be a reflection of how outgoing and expressive people are, rather than proof that Louisiana is mired in sadness? We’re about partying and Mardi Gras, not about suffering in silence.

People here like to talk, they like to emote, and they love to tweet. As one local told WWL, “I think it’s nothing but excitement. We just had a Super Bowl.”

The study also made some assumptions about what words happy people would use in a tweet. Louisiana residents apparently tweet too much about b***s and not enough about sushi. The Vermont researchers suggested that a study of “geoprofanity” could provide clues to widespread unhappiness.

Maybe. Or it could just tell you that people down here speak more colorfully than folks up north.

Does anyone out there really believe Louisiana is the saddest state? Clearly I’m biased, but I believe that the University of Vermont might have some of the saddest researchers.