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Study of 800 Million Tweets Shows We Get Really Emo Late at Night

University of Bristol researchers found patterns around what we say online.
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What we tweet might be dictated by time of day and our own circadian rhythms, according to a new study of 800 million tweets.

University of Bristol researchers studied seven billion words sent from across 54 of the UK's largest cities over four years—between January 2010 and November 2014—to determine patterns in how we think and feel throughout the day. They scraped tweets from the Twitter search API, anonymized the data, and used 73 psychometric indicators to tease out the mood and emotion behind the tweets.


The study, “Diurnal variations of psychometric indicators in Twitter content,” is published in PLOS ONE.

What they found probably won’t surprise anyone who’s ever rolled over in the morning and logged onto Twitter: On weekday mornings, beginning around 6 a.m., analytical thinking is at its peak, but so is low mood. Everyone’s jumping online to be the first to catch up on whatever new horrors unfolded overnight, and rushing to be the first to get mad about it.

In these morning hours, we’re also more concerned with achievement and power. Maybe that explains this:

Shit gets more weird in the witching hours, around 3 a.m. to 4 a.m., when existential thinking reigns. “During this time the positive emotions are low, death and religion are the main concerns in the population,” the researchers write.

Sunday mornings saw the highest positive emotions, but as the day goes on, we get lower and sadder.

“The analysis of media content, when done correctly, can reveal useful information for both social and biological sciences,” Professor Nello Cristianini, Professor of Artificial Intelligence and the project lead, said in a press release. “We are still trying to learn how to make the most of it.”