x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

@unhappy_2011

So tweeters are an unhappy lot. Who would have thought?

It is often said that joy cannot be expressed in words. Misery, however, can be shared in 140 characters.

Scientists at the University of Vermont, after tracking and analysing the tone of billions of messages on Twitter over nearly three years, have revealed that the happiness levels around the world are plummeting.

Civil unrest, natural disasters and a global financial crisis: it's fair to say that not too many will look back on 2011 with much fondness. And they have not been shy to tweet about their gloom either.

In fact, the day of greatest joy, or "least unhappiness" as the report put it, was the day of Osama bin Laden's death - a good indication of how rotten the year has been all around.

For those familiar with Twitter, the results are hardly shocking. But while it is unquestionable that it has been a tough year for so many, are social networks really the best way to gauge the public mood? Twitter is notoriously inhabited by angry, abusive people who exploit the opportunity to interact with others to vent their frustrations.

But then again, if the researchers had wanted an alternative world, where life is just one long party, where holidays are plentiful and every individual's supply of beautiful friends is endless, they needn't go far: the imaginary world of Facebook is just one click away.