Alan Soh

I am my own columnist, sharing my own thoughts and experiences!

Singaporeans not happy this year?

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Every day, millions of people around the world share how they feel about the people and things which matter the most in their lives through status updates on Facebook, which is now the most popular social networking website in cyberspace. Status updates are little windows for us to take a peek into seeing what our friends or contacts are doing. They tell you what is going on next month, next week, this week and even now..this very moment. In real-time.

Know something?

Based on these status updates, Facebook Data Team did a Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index on 22 countries, including United States, India and Singapore. Using computers to do word counting (I think they simply use computers to scan for certain words), Facebook Data Team analyzed the use of positive and negative words in status updates to estimate the level of happiness of people on Facebook in each of the countries covered.

Facebook found that a country’s happiness score represents its culture and experience to a certain extent on a particular day, usually popular holidays such as Christmas or New Year’s Day.

Disasters have a dramatic impact on the happiness levels. For instance, Facebook saw a large dip in India’s index on 27 November 2008,  the day of the Mumbai terrorist attack, and a huge drop in Chile’s index, corresponding to the tragic earthquake on 27 February 2010.

Cultural differences also play a role in people’s weekly happiness cycles and how they celebrate their holidays. For example, South Africans are happier on Fridays than Saturdays, a weekly cycle different from that of other countries. In countries such as Spain and Germany, people are more festive on Christmas Eve than on Christmas Day. Then one week later, we Singaporeans are found to be always happier on New Year’s Day than New Year’s Eve. Haha.

Take a look at this -> Trends in the GNH index (from Sept 2008 till present).

United States and Canada are seeing increases in both positivity and decreases in negativity. Overall speaking, we Singaporeans, on the other hand, are seen slowly decreasing the usage of emotional words in our status updates.


You may ask, “Why are Singaporeans unhappier this year? Do you mean that they are more happy last year as compared to this year?”

Well, yes. Sort of.

Again, please see this interesting chart on Singapore’s GNH index in Facebook, covering Dec 2008 till present.

The Facebook Data Team has mined this above data chart based on Singaporeans’  status messages. Kindly note that positive sounding status updates will increase the GNH while negative ones will decrease it. It shows that we Singaporeans are less happy this year than we were last year in 2009 despite gaining massive economic progress of 18% GDP growth.


A friend of whom I know at National Youth Council, has shared this insight with me.

“If you observe carefully, there is a drop in happiness during National Day this year. Also, you will notice that Chinese New Year and Mother’s Day disappeared in the index this year. During economic booms, it seems that Singaporeans are spending less time with their families and therefore less happy. Sadly, our mothers get the brunt of it.” he said.

Just because Singapore progressed much faster does not make us Singaporeans much happier. In fact whenever I look across the Causeway, it seems to me that the Malaysians are more ready to smile than we do.

Why is this so?

Is this because Singaporeans are experiencing tremendous stress levels at the workplace, due to increased workload as a result of economic bloom? What are the other likely reasons behind this?

For more such information, you can search for “Facebook Data Team” in Facebook.

As of 12 October 2010, there are 2.34 million Facebook users in Singapore. Wow, that is almost half the entire human population of Singapore!


Author: alansoh79

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