Well-Being Depends on Social Comparison: Hierarchical Models of Twitter Language Suggest That Richer Neighbors Make You Less Happy

Authors

  • Salvatore Giorgi University of Pennsylvania
  • Sharath Chandra Guntuku University of Pennsylvania
  • Johannes C. Eichstaedt Stanford University
  • Claire Pajot Stanford University
  • H. Andrew Schwartz Stony Brook University
  • Lyle H. Ungar University of Pennsylvania

Keywords:

Psychological, personality-based and ethnographic studies of social media, Qualitative and quantitative studies of social media

Abstract

Psychological research has shown that subjective well-being is sensitive to social comparison effects; individuals report decreased happiness when their neighbors earn more than they do. In this work, we use Twitter language to estimate the well-being of users, and model both individual and neighborhood income using hierarchical modeling across counties in the United States (US). We show that language-based estimates from a sample of 5.8 million Twitter users replicate results obtained from large-scale well-being surveys --- relatively richer neighbors leads to lower well-being, even when controlling for absolute income. Furthermore, predicting individual-level happiness using hierarchical models (i.e., individuals within their communities) out-predicts standard baselines. We also explore language associated with relative income differences and find that individuals with lower income than their community tend to swear (f*ck, sh*t, b*tch), express anger (pissed, bullsh*t, wtf), hesitation (don't, anymore, idk, confused) and acts of social deviance (weed, blunt, drunk). These results suggest that social comparison robustly affects reported well-being, and that Twitter language analyses can be used to both measure these effects and shed light on their underlying psychological dynamics.

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Published

2021-05-22

How to Cite

Giorgi, S., Guntuku, S. C., Eichstaedt, J. C., Pajot, C., Schwartz, H. A., & Ungar, L. H. (2021). Well-Being Depends on Social Comparison: Hierarchical Models of Twitter Language Suggest That Richer Neighbors Make You Less Happy. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 15(1), 1069-1074. Retrieved from https://ojs.aaai.org/index.php/ICWSM/article/view/18132