If you live in Utah, congratulations: Apparently, everyone there is very courteous and friendly – or, at least, doesn’t curse on social media. The same can be said of North and South Dakota, Maine and, somewhat stunningly, Nevada. How do I know this? It’s simple: I just looked at the Twitter Heatmap to see what part of the United States said “F*** You” the most in a set period.
The Heatmap was created by a Ukranian-based web development company called Vertaline (Company motto: “We prototype your project”) as a proof-of-concept for a service that would easily demonstrate how popular a particular term was on Twitter, and where the people were who were using it most often. “Project ‘Twitter Heatmap’ was created to show a density map of tweets distributed in time,” the project’s intro page explains. “We scanned for tweets containing phrases Good morning and F*ck you in 462 specific locations within United States. In order to get enough data for creating an animation we scanned Twitter at intervals approximately once per hour. Number of tweets for each point in current scanning was calculated relatively to the previous scanning. Having this data we calculated the absolute distributed in time density of tweets.”
Obviously, there’s some value in seeing what part of the country is most courteous first thing in the day (It definitely seems to skew east, for some reason; perhaps Pacific Time, permanently three hours behind the East Coast, means that people aren’t used to thinking of morning as the morning on the Left Coast?), but let’s be honest: If someone is offering to show you who uses their 140 characters-per-message to tell people to eff off,that’s the one you’re going to go for, right?
Somewhat amusingly, the Twitter heat for that particular phrase also trend towards the East Coast – and, specifically, New York, thereby fulfilling all manner of cultural stereotypes along the way. To be fair, that’s not always the case: Southern California puts in a strong showing as well on some days, as do states including Tennessee, Texas and the Carolinas… but more often than not, New York takes the crown.
Behind the (admittedly, very enjoyable) comedy of this Heatmap, there’s an interesting idea at play. As has often been posited, there’s value in using social media, and especially Twitter, as an informal survey of trends and popular opinion about particular topics. What Vertaline have created with the Heatmap is something that appears to be able to track mention of specific words, phrases or terms in something approaching real time, allowing a particularly easy-to-understand look at what could turn out to be somewhat valuable information for marketers, researchers or, yes, even just people who want to know how often people in New Mexico swear at the Internet. I look forward to seeing more of this kind of thing in the future.