Are We Happy Yet?


Facebook, the mammoth social networking site that seems to have its massive hands in–well, everything–is now tracking the “happiness” of its U.S. users. They call it “The United States Gross National Happiness” index, and it measures the words users stick in their updates: Using words like “happy” or “excited” push the index higher. Words like “sad” or “despondent” nudge it lower.

So what’s up with this?

excited.JPGFirst, let’s be honest. Facebook may be a big player in today’s culture, but it’s probably not so overwhelmingly influential as to give an accurate reading of how happy the United States is. The index really should be called “the United States Gross Happiness Index For People Who Update Their Facebook Profiles Fairly Frequently (USGHIFPWUTFPFF).” I’m just guessing here, but I’d imagine that folks who have a lot to say on their Facebook pages tend to be happier than the average bear, which may skew the statistics.

Still, the results (as near as I can figure them) are pretty interesting. Today (Wednesday, Oct. 7), for instance, we seem pretty happy, with Facebook marking us at a reasonable 1.6 points over a baseline of zero, meaning happy words slightly outnumber sad ones in profile updates. If index trends continue, we’ll likely get happier as the day goes on (we’re not morning people, according to Facebook), and the index will continue to rise throughout the week (we like Fridays a lot). But as happy as we are now, we’re not nearly as happy as we were last Christmas (when the index nearly hit 18 points) or Easter (when it crested around 12). Oh, and Mother’s Day makes us happier than Father’s Day.

So what do you think? Do you think the index is, at least, semi-accurate? Or are the results hopelessly, irredeemably skewed? Do you have a Facebook page? And does it make you happier?

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Bunjiman:

I'd have to say that I believe that things would be skewed.  We all know that actual words can mean different things in context.  While the words "hope" and "good" would probably bump up the the happy meter, when put in the phrase "I hope I will have a good day," does it really mean happiness?  The words may trigger the "happy" sensor, but the phrase indicates the person is more sad (or at least not quite as happy as he wants to be).

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Ted_Slater:

Sadly, your blog post makes me happy, Paul.

Just trying to confuse the system. ;-)