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Life satisfaction refers to a somewhat stable cognitive assessment of one’s own life. Life satisfaction is an important component of subjective well being, the scientific term for happiness. The other component is affect: the balance between the presence of positive and negative emotions in daily life. While affect has been studied using social media datasets (particularly from Twitter), life satisfaction has received little to no attention. Here, we examine trends in posts about life satisfaction from a two-year sample of Twitter data. We apply a surveillance methodology to extract expressions of both satisfaction and dissatisfaction with life. A noteworthy result is that consistent with their definitions trends in life satisfaction posts are immune to external events (political, seasonal etc.) unlike affect trends reported by previous researchers. Comparing users we find differences between satisfied and dissatisfied users in several linguistic, psychosocial and other features. For example the latter post more tweets expressing anger, anxiety, depression, sadness and on death. We also study users who change their status over time from satisfied with life to dissatisfied or vice versa. Noteworthy is that the psychosocial tweet features of users who change from satisfied to dissatisfied are quite different from those who stay satisfied over time. Overall, the observations we make are consistent with intuition and consistent with observations in the social science research. This research contributes to the study of the subjective well being of individuals through social media.



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Yang C, Srinivasan P (2016) Life Satisfaction and the Pursuit of Happiness on Twitter. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0150881. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0150881


© 2016 Yang, Srinivasan

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.