LIMA — According to Twitter, people in Lima are among the unhappiest in the country.
A University of Vermont study called “The Geography of Happiness” looked through the words of more than 10 million geotagged tweets from 373 urban areas in the United States, including Lima, which ranked 9th from the bottom of the list. Lima was in good company with towns like Flint, Mich., (6th) Shreveport, La., (4th) and Beaumont, Texas (1st).
Certain words were characterized as having either a happy or sad tone and factored into an algorithm. Lima’s ranking was based on approximately 3,000 tweets during 2011.
More than 50 people sounded off about the study on The Lima News Facebook page Thursday, both in support of and against the study’s results. Some Facebook users blamed the Husky Lima Refinery’s emissions, Lima’s vandalism and crime and a lack of activities. Others had a sunnier outlook on the city.
“Unfortunately, it won’t change until people start taking action instead of complaining,” commented Trish Bush. “There are plenty of fun things to do, new places and people to discover but people need to get out and discover them. Every town has its bad with the good, just remember not to overlook the good things!”
Stacy Ewing Manns agreed.
“I have lived all over the world and trust me on this … It could be worse, much worse. … Even if we are busy and not involved in a local social organization, even picking up litter we walk by is a start. Take pride in your community. It is what YOU make it. It all starts with a change in attitude.”
Dr. Will Slater, a psychology professor at Bluffton University, is among those who questioned the study’s methodology. He’s taught positive psychology classes at the university.
“I don’t know how much the city, the urban environment of Lima, would effect one’s happiness,” Slater said. “And when we’re talking about tweeting, what population are we talking about? What age group, and all of those kinds of things. I think I would be hard pressed to say that the city is making people sad and don’t know how good of evidence is in the study that it is truly sad.”
Mike Schoenhofer, executive director of mental health agency The We Care People in Lima, said he wasn’t able to comment on the reliability and methodology of the study. Schoenhofer said it’s better to look at a state of emotions and how they can be sourced.
“It’s something you carry with you, rather than it’s something that you find in a particular place,” he said. “I think there is a pervasive, negative thing about Lima, and I think there’s a lot of negative feelings about Lima, especially around the outside of Lima. I think that eventually, that kind of seeps in and you start to maybe take that on, that we’re not good or we’re not as good as somebody else. It takes a lot of effort to change your thinking, and then change the whole community’s thinking about itself.”
Schoenhofer leads various presentations about positive psychology and happiness using various everyday activities to keep the cheer the body, mind and spirit: exercising, expressing gratitude, keeping hydrated and meditating.
On Facebook, The Meeting Place on Market co-owner Jennifer Stover Brogee said Lima’s pool of Twitter users in unreliably small.
“I’m on twitter and there is very little activity on twitter here in Lima,” Brogee said. “So since they based their study on twitter posts, it’s taken from such a small pool that there’s no way it can paint an accurate portrait.”
To read the full study, visit http://bit.ly/11YBPWw.