What does your Facebook status update say?
If it includes the words "awesome," "happy," or "tragic," Facebook is paying close attention.
The social networking site, with more than 300 million users, is scouring status updates for these key words and more, to compile a Gross National Happiness Index (GNHI). (Facebook started looking for these words in status updates earlier this year.)
Facebook intern Adam Kramer, who is studying for his Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Oregon, says the index is being compiled from a "collection of positive and negative emotion words built by social psychologists":
Examples of positive or happy words include "happy," "yay" and "awesome," while negative, or unhappy words, include "sad," "doubt" and "tragic." We also did a brief survey of some Facebook users, which showed that people who use more positive words, relative to the number of negative words, reported higher satisfaction with their lives.
To create the index, Facebook is keeping a tally of the days where English-speaking, US users have been at their happiest. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Valentine's Day made us smile. So did Barack Obama's election.
Facebook also generated a survey, which revealed that people who used more positive words in their status updates, were happier overall and "reported higher satisfaction with their lives."
For those who concerned about privacy issues, Kramer, in a company blog, insists that Facebook isn't sifting through your personal information:
To protect your privacy, no one at Facebook actually reads the status updates in the process of doing this research; instead, our computers do the word counting after all personally identifiable information has been removed.
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