Are you happy? Facebook wants to know.

Facebook attempts to measure the nation's overall mood.

The social networking site, Facebook, started tracking the nation's overall mood through users' status updates earlier this year. The saddest day for many users was on Jan. 22, 2008, when actor Heath Ledger died.

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.

As for the saddest days? Mr. Kramer points to Jan. 22, 2008 – the day Heath Ledger died and the Asian stock market plummeted – and June 25, 2009, the day pop music star Michael Jackson died.

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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What do you think about Facebook's Gross National Happiness Index? Leave a comment below or follow us @CSMHorizonsBlog.

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