Weekly research roundup: Here are the happiest languages and vowels

Happiness research

This is a weekly series on the latest happiness research. Learn and be merry! 

There’s an “i” in happiness – Researchers in Germany found that pronouncing an “i” sound – which contracts your facial muscles into a semi-smile – makes you happier, while an “o” sound – which produces a less chipper facial expression – makes you sadder. They also found that words with “i” tend to be more positive (“like”), while words with “o” tend to be more negative (“alone”).

Talk happy – Researchers from the University of Vermont found that Spanish, Portuguese, and English are the happiest languages. They picked 100,000 popular words from 10 languages and asked 5 million native speakers (total) to rate how positive or negative they are. Although all the languages had a positive bias – more positive words than negative ones – Chinese was the least happy.

Thanks, moms – A study of 315 same-sex couples in Australia found that children to same-sex couples had 6% higher physical health and family cohesion than children to heterosexual couples.

Don’t quit Facebook – A study out of Kansas State University found that people who take smartphone breaks during work report higher happiness and well-being. Using social media apps like Facebook and Twitter has more of a positive effect than playing games. Participants used their smartphones an average of 22 minutes during the work day.

Put up the fence – According to a pan-European study by the UK Office for National Statistics, connections to your community aren’t associated with higher levels of happiness.

Get your priorities straight – According to a study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education of 10,000 middle and high school students, students care more about achievement than happiness or caring for others – and believe their parents and friends do, too.

Beware the big 3-0 – Research has shown that career satisfaction dips in your 30s, and a study out of Australia suggests that it’s because time pressure at work increases (as new recruits ask for help and mentoring) and coworker support wanes (as you compete for promotions).

Adapted photo by Flickr user TobiasMik WhatWeDo




Facebook Product Announcement: Video chat, group chat, new chat design

“Today marks the beginning of what we’ll call launching season 2011.” -Mark Zuckerberg, before announcing video chat, group chat, and a redesigned chat interface

Zuckerberg began by describing the evolution of social networking, which was originally about “connecting people.” Though we once doubted that social media would become ubiquitous, that question has been settled. Where do we go from here?

Now, the focus is on what “cool” social apps will be built–and big companies are taking notice. How will we measure engagement? Not just active users, but how many apps are being used, how much time people are spending on apps, the effect on the economy, and how much people are sharing.

Facebook hit 750 million users, but that’s not the important thing, Zuckerberg said; rather, it’s that people are sharing more and more.

courtesy of http://www.livestream.com/facebookannouncements

Facebook will be rolling out “a lot of stuff” over the next few months. For now, it’s group chat; a new chat design that makes it easier to find friends online; and video chat (in collaboration with Skype).

Group chat: Over half of the people on Facebook are active users of groups, and people love chatting with these groups (which average 7 people). Using the normal chat interface, you can add other friends to the chat.

New chat design: This takes into account your browser size, so it might add a sidebar with a listing of your friends (photos and names) online.

Video chat: Accessible through the normal chat interface and on friends’ pages. “Your least technical friend can get online and connected with someone else,” said Facebook engineer Phillip Su. According to Tony Bates, CEO of Skype, Skype boasts an average of 300 million minutes of video a month. It will be a “true partnership” with Facebook.

Zuckerberg said they’ll leave the development of add-on apps to other entrepreneurs, compared to other Internet companies that try to do everything (*cough* Google *cough*).

Question and Answer
(Zuckerberg unless otherwise noted)

Q: Is group video chat in the works, and what do you think of Google Hangouts?

A: Today we’re just rolling out one-on-one chat. “I wouldn’t rule anything out,” but the majority of video chat is one-on-one. “I just think that this is super awesome.” As for Google+, everyone is moving in a social direction.

Q to Bates: Are you concerned that people will shift from Skype to Facebook video?

A by Bates: Not really.

Q: How do you decide to start video chat?

A: It rings and you click “accept.”

Q to Bates: What’s in it for Skype financially?

A by Bates: Today, we’re just focusing on getting a broad reach, although paid Skype products may be in the works.

Q: Are these features available on mobile devices and tablets?

A: Video is not live for mobile yet, but group chat works. “These are mostly web features for now.”

Q: How will Facebook accommodate the added load of video?

A: We’ll build more of our own data centers, but Skype’s video calling is p2p anyway.

Q: What is the current overlap between Facebook and Skype users?

A: We don’t know.

Q: What are the financial terms of the partnership? How did Microsoft play a role?

A: We’re figuring out what we want to do next. We have a good relationship with Microsoft.

Q: What’s happening in group and friend management?

A: We’ll see more apps. Only around 5% of users adopt friend lists. Sharing to small groups is not the biggest trend (it’s topped by apps and mobile).

Do Social Media Destroy Human Relationships?

This was the question debated at a recent AEI event, pitting DC economics professor and food blogger Tyler Cowen against British philosopher Roger Scruton.

Part of Scruton’s argument involved drawing a parallel with pornography: just as, in his view, pornography tends to become a substitute for real romantic love, interacting with “friends” on social media becomes a substitute for real, meaningful, effort-ful offline relationships.

The debate ended with Cowen telling Scruton, essentially: “You’re so very wrong, but I’m glad you’re here to voice your mistaken opinions.” In other words, we shouldn’t accept any social trend without questioning it, but in this case there’s no need to fret.

To me, it all comes down to choice: social media aren’t inherently bad for us; they become bad by virtue of how we use them (to stalk, spy, and hide, or to connect, learn, and share).

Liveblogging SocialMedia.org’s BlogWell DC

Yesterday, I made my way out to USA TODAY’s headquarters in McLean, Virginia, to liveblog BlogWell DC, an event about how big brands use social media. I covered presentations by USA TODAY, Discovery Communications, Delta Air Lines, and the IRS.

I was pretty impressed with the quality of the presentations and the variety of social media strategies discussed. Among the highlights:

  • What America Wants, a 4-day Twitter campaign to win a full-page ad for your favorite charity (USA TODAY)
  • Streaming live tweets onscreen during a primetime show (Discovery)
  • An April Fool’s joint press release with the Bronx Zoo cobra (or, at least, its Twitter account holder) for a Snake on the Town documentary (Discovery)
  • Tweeting at a user who was wondering what TV show to watch (Discovery) (this was one of the most interesting — the idea of searching for relevant tweets then encouraging a user to buy/use/consume your product)
  • Quick customer service on Twitter (Delta)

Some of the common themes:

  • Make it easy to engage and participate
  • The worry that users will share personal information (phone numbers, SSNs) on sites like Facebook
  • Be human (send direct messages, respond to tweets, etc.)

Overall, the event just opened my eyes to all the innovative and targeted ways to use social media to engage customers. Well done!