The Emotions of Tweeting

“Written to the song: I Got a Woman — Ray Charles

“The Internet has given us 10 or 15 new styles of communication: long messages like blogging, and then short messages like texting and tweeting. I see it all as part of an expanding array of linguistic possibilities.” — David Crystal

New York City

Social media provides a platform to share our perspectives, emotions, and successes. How does the time of day and language affect the way that our online presence is perceived?

Michael Macy and Scott Golder, two sociologists from Cornell wanted to measure the emotional valency of tweets throughout the day. Over two years, they analyzed more than 500 million tweets from 2.4 million people from 84 different countries. They measured people tweets and emotions throughout the day by classifying a tweet by having a “positive affect” (having an underlying message of confidence, happiness, enthusiasm) or “negative affect” (perceived sadness, anger and guilt). They came up with a method of inputting the message into the LINC (linguistic inquiry and word count) program which analyzed and evaluated the emotion conveyed by each word. They found a consistent pattern.

The researchers found that positive affect and positive messages increased in the morning. Then, positive affect plummeted in the afternoon and rose again in the evening. These results were the same across various cultures and 81 different countries. It is important to note that tweets do not necessarily portray reality. Social media often contains messages that people choose to convey and share with the world, which may not accurately represent their actual reality.

Is there a relationship between circadian rhythm and mood throughout the day? In Daniel Pink’s book “When” it reveals that everyone has a natural spike in their mood when they typically wake up, and as the day goes on their mood becomes less happy, and then spikes again at the end of the day. Think of enjoying a coffee first thing in the morning, and getting slowly annoyed with people as the day goes on. This is then followed by the excitement of finally leaving work to lay on the couch. It is interesting to note that the circadian rhythm of mood follows online as well. Timing has an influence on your mood, and your mood has an influence on the language you use.


Pink, Daniel H. When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. New York, NY: Riverhead Books, 2018.

Author of “Q & A a Day for Travelers”.