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Facebook's 'Gross National Happiness' App Indicates Which Countries Need Prozac

Facebook gross national happinessLast year, Facebook unveiled its Gross National Happiness app, a prototype that gauges the emotional well-being of users by scanning user status updates for "happy" words like "yay" and "awesome," or for "unhappy" words like "doubt" and "tragic." Originally, the methodology was applied only to American users, but as Mashable reports, the social networking site has now broadened it to include 18 different countries, spanning status updates in six different languages.

By restricting their scope to the languages most commonly used in status updates -- English, Dutch, German, Italian and Spanish -- Facebook's researchers could use a sample size large enough to effectively negate any variations in word usage, or other random errors.

Once the numbers were tallied, the resulting graphics showed the obvious; people are generally happier during national holidays or big sporting events, and generally more depressed during natural disasters or terrorist attacks. Spanish users, for example, saw a spike in positive status updates around April, when the country celebrates Saint Jordi's day, while India's index plummeted after the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November, 2008. Although U.S.-based users generally cheer up around the Super Bowl, major sporting events in other countries prove to be something of a double-edged sword. Ireland's national score nosedived on the day its soccer team suffered a controversial loss to France, as did Germany's the day goalie Robert Enke committed suicide.

Measuring happiness isn't exactly a new concept; the Kingdom of Bhutan has been measuring its country's progress in Gross National Happiness for decades, and economists have long sought different ways to measure well-being beyond purely quantitative indicators, like GDP or GDP per capita. The novel thing about Facebook's approach, though, is that it forces us to consider the concept of status update as emotional barometer. Of course, not everyone in the world is on Facebook, and perhaps even fewer people update their statuses to reflect their moods. But as social networking becomes more ubiquitous, it may eventually become a surprisingly robust metric for measuring emotional reactions to world events -- or, ironically, for measuring global outrage over Facebook's ongoing war on privacy. [From: Facebook, via: Mashable]

Tags: facebook, GrossNationalHappinessIndex, happiness, HappinessResearch, international, socialnetworking, Status, StatusUpdate, top, web