Happiness Increases as People Go Farther from Home

May 14, 2013

【Unlocking Word Meanings】

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. social media
[SOH-shuh l MEE-dee-uh] (n. phrase) – websites and other online forms of communication that allow a person to interact with other people
Example: Many people use social media to express their feelings and to get updates from friends.

2. tweet [tweet] (noun) – a short message or status update posted on the social networking site Twitter
Example: She finds President Obama’s tweets on Twitter interesting.
3. geotag [JEE-oh-tag] (noun) – data attached to a digital or online post  to show information about a person’s location
Example: People often add geotags to their posts so others can know their location.

4. ascertain [as-er-TEYN ] (verb) – to determine; to discover with assurance
Example: Critics ascertain the truth behind news stories before sharing them on Facebook or Twitter.

5. mine [mahyn] (verb) – to get valuable information from a source
Example: The researchers mined for more information in the actor’s personal diary.


Read the text below.

Researchers from the University of Vermont in the US have found that happiness increases the farther people travel from home, as shown in people’s posts on social media.

The researchers used publicly-available information on Twitter to conduct their study. Out of the more than four billion tweets, the researchers selected 37 million that have geotags. Researchers then analyzed the happiness content of each tweet relative to the location of the sender.

To analyze whether a tweet suggests happiness, the researchers created a computer program that looks for positive words such as "great," "love," or "awesome," and negative words like "no," "hate," and "bored." The program then assigned a “happiness score” for each tweet.

Based on the results, the researchers ascertained that the happiness score of a tweet decreases with about one kilometer from home, a distance that usually matches with a person’s workplace. This finding indicates that most people are less happy when they are at work.

On the other hand, the happiness score rises as distance from home increases, which suggests that people become happier when they get farther from home.

However, this recent study on people’s happiness has limitations. Researchers may not be sure if the sample they used can represent the whole population of Twitter users. Also, researchers have no way to determine if the person’s words indeed match his or her true thoughts.

Previous studies have also mined for information on Twitter. One example is the study that monitored the spread of news and established the relationship of obesity and expressions of hunger.

【Viewpoint Discussion】

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Do you agree that a person becomes happier when he or she is farther from home? Why or why not?
·         Why do you think some people feel less happy when they are at work?

Discussion B

·         In your opinion, why are social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter very popular?
·         Do you think people lose their privacy because of social networking sites? Explain your answer.


May 14, 2013