How we felt online in 2015

MORE THAN A FEELING: Adam Goodes, Malcolm Turnbull and the NRL grand final met with online emotion in 2015.
MORE THAN A FEELING: Adam Goodes, Malcolm Turnbull and the NRL grand final met with online emotion in 2015.

THE booing of Adam Goodes, Tony Abbott’s axing as Prime Minister and a heart-stopping NRL grand final stirred online emotion in 2015, a CSIRO study shows.

For Twitter users in the Hunter and the rest of NSW, a wellspring of joy, sadness, anger, fear and love on the night of September 14 coincided with Malcolm Turnbull becoming PM.

“Joy” tweets dried up on November 14 as news broke of deadly terror attacks in Paris, alongside a surge in “sadness” tweets.

Another wave of sadness and anger came on August 6 at the height of the Adam Goodes booing controversy, just before the AFL condemned fans’ behaviour.

Emotion also flared on March 29 as Australia lifted the Cricket World Cup and on October 4 as the North Queensland Cowboys clinched the NRL title, and a 3am mini-spike of melancholy on November 1 met the Wallabies’ defeat in the Rugby World Cup final.

The feelings were tracked by CSIRO’s We Feel project, a study of millions of tweets from around the world that were analysed for their emotional content in partnership with the Black Dog Institute.

Researchers don’t link events with feelings, Cecile Paris of CSIRO data innovation group Data61 said, but hope to understand what drives emotion, who is at risk of depression and how the mood of a region can fluctuate.

“We have compiled a vocabulary and a hierarchy of about 500 emotional words,” Dr Paris said.

“Then we have mapped those words to a range of emotions. There’s always a lot on the internet.”

The Twitter emotions ranged from joy – including “cheerfulness”, “enthrallment” and “relief” – to anger, which covers “envy”, “disgust” and “rage”. Unable to mine Facebook posts reliably because of the prevalence of privacy settings, researchers turned to Twitter as a giant sample of public feelings.

“We saw surges... last year around the time of the death of Robin Williams, and of the cricketer Phillips Hughes,” Dr Paris said.

“People talk a lot about themselves on social media.”

At times, users in the Hunter and the rest of the state expressed feelings in up to half of their tweets. Despite how it can feel some days on the internet, most tweets met the criteria of “joy”.


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