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South African tweeps wake up happy ... but then reality kicks in

03 May 2019 - 12:13 By timeslive
Twitter is revealing our moods and helping a team work out how happy we are.
Twitter is revealing our moods and helping a team work out how happy we are.
Image: AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL

We are at our happiest at 5am, before the day's negativity gets us down.

This is the finding of a "happiness index", constructed by following what people on Twitter say about life and analysing the sentiment of these tweets. The index is compiled by Dawie Roodt, chief economist of the Efficient Group, and Prof Talita Greyling of the University of Johannesburg.

Roodt said on Friday they plan to measure SA's happiness frequently over the next few days until just after the elections.

On average, there are approximately 30,000 tweets a day, they say, mostly between 7pm and 10pm.

Over the past few days, April 30 reported a happiness score of 5.5, while the average happiness on Workers’ Day (May 1) was 5.1.

"This is not a very scientific conclusion, but it is worthwhile pointing out that South Africa was happier on a normal working day than on an official holiday - and Workers' Day nogal!" Roodt commented.

"If we consider happiness per 12 hours, the happiness for the first 12 hours on April 30 was on average 5.69, and the second 12 hours, 5.29. For the first 12 hours on May 1, it was 5.08."

Commenting on how happiness is at its highest early in the morning (around 5am), Roodt said: "On May 1, we had an unexpected increase in happiness levels around 10am. Perhaps because it was a public holiday, a few of us decided to sleep in and the normal 5am bout of happiness was postponed."

The first tweets of the day, which are normally positive, were later than on other non-holiday days.

As the day progressed, the level of happiness started decreasing as more negative tweets became apparent.

Most of the tweets, as expected, were from the bigger areas, like Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Centurion, Durban, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Randburg, Diepkloof, and Diepsloot. But there was also significant tweet traffic coming from smaller areas such as Addo, Arniston, Bhisho and Ogies. In total, there were tweets from 491 different areas.

The May 8 elections dominated conversations, an event that will be monitored hourly by the happiness index team.

Roodt noted that South Africa's happiness has been measured before. From 2005 to 2014, SA had an average happiness score of 6.3. During this period, Costa Rica was the happiest country, with a score of 8.5, while Tanzania was the unhappiest, at 2.5.

Since 1996, SA's happiness score mostly increased and reached a peak of 7.1 in 2009 - but  then the happiness gradually faded. The most recent world happiness index has South Africa at just less than 5, or just below neutral.

Roodt commented that South Africa's downward happiness trajectory mostly followed events like state capture, weak economic growth and the Zuma years.

On 2018 data, South Africa was ranked at 106 out of 156 countries, with a score of 4.72. The top-ranked countries are Finland (7.78), Denmark (7.60), Norway (7.55), Iceland (7.49), Netherlands (7.48) and Switzerland (7.48). Those at the bottom are Tanzania (3.23), Afghanistan (3.20), Central African Republic (3.08) and South Sudan (2.85).


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