Twitter Study Takes Country's Temp from Tweets

Remember mood rings? The color of the stone would change depending on your mood.

So 1970s.

In 2010, scientists say they can measure the mood of the entire nation through Twitter, CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports.

A recently released map shows a minute-by-minute, color-coded, sort of scientific chronicle of the country's mood based on words used in those quick electronic messages called tweets. Red states are mad. Tan and green states are happy. Users feel pretty good early in the day, get mad later and happy again before bedtime.

Northeastern University's Sune Lehmann said he studied about 300 million tweets.

"That's actually a very small number," Lehmann said.

Lehmann programmed his computers to look for hundreds of happy words or sad words in tweets. Words like diamond, love and paradise were considered happy. Funeral, rape and suicide were considered not so happy. The happiest words came on Sundays, and tweets got sadder as the week rolled on.

"I can tell you the happiest state consistently is Hawaii," Lehmann said.

In fact, most of the western United States is apparently happy.

"A little sun might do that to you, a little sun, walking on the beach," one Californian said.

"I would say the whole east coast seems pretty grumpy," Lehmann said.

In New York, it wasn't hard to find grumpy people.

"If you get in the way of what we want, we let you know it," one New Yorker said.

So is this science? Can one really gauge the mood of a nation by tweets? Maybe not yet, but Lehmann said he hopes soon.

"Potentially this can be a very valuable tool," Lehmann said.

That's encouraging news on the most discouraging day. According to Lehmann's calculations, the grumpiest time of the week is Thursday evening.

  • Richard Schlesinger

    Correspondent, "48 Hours," "CBS Evening News"