Social media such as Twitter and the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) network were partially to blame for the riots which swept across the UK last summer, but now a new analysis of British tweets reveals that the public mood was turning long before the first riot took place.
Thomas Lansdall-Welfare and colleagues at the University of Bristol measured the emotional content of 484 million tweets from between July 2009 and January 2012, organising them into four lists: joy, fear, anger and sadness. It is not the first time researchers have analysed tweets in this way, but the Bristol team wanted to see if particular events were reflected in the emotions on Twitter, rather than just general sentiments.
Their analysis found that certain annual events always result in a spike of emotion each year. For example, there is always a large increase in joy on Christmas Day, along with smaller spikes on New Year’s Day, Easter and Valentine’s Day. Other emotions show similar spikes at regular points, such as an increase in sadness on Halloween.
The researchers also found other changes connected to one-off events. There was a noticeable change in fear and anger levels on 20 October 2010, the day on which the UK government announced significant budget cuts as a result of the recession, and the average public mood still remains at a higher level of these emotions than before the cuts were announced.
Jacob Aron, technology reporter
(Image: Geoffrey Robinson/Rex Features)
There was, however, some reduction in fear and anger in the run up to the royal wedding in April 2011, suggesting Price William and Kate Middleton’s impending nuptials had a calming effect on the public mood. Following the wedding there was a sharp rise in anger, culminating at a peak on 6 August 2011, the date of the first UK riot. Read More