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The World Mood Index

Years ago, I got the idea for an Internet Mood Ring. I thought it’d be fun to write a little application that would sit in the corner of your screen, showing you two small buttons. They would mimic the color range of a mood ring — they’d glow black for a “bad” mood, then gradually lighten through reds and oranges and greens until they glowed blue for a “good” mood. The first button represented your mood; you’d click on it to bring up a slider, and slide it to represent the right color. The other button would represent the average of all the other moods of all the other users of the application. That way you could watch as the world’s mood shifted and changed during the day — and you could also, in a quick glance, compare your mood to that of the world at large.

I actually wondered if this wouldn’t produce some really weird Heisenbergian feedback effects; if you looked at the buttons and realized you were feeling better than the rest of the world, would that make you feel better still, causing you to dial your personal mood higher, thus causing the overall mood of the world to improve? And if everyone in a better-than-average mood did the same thing, wouldn’t that have a distortion effect on the world’s mood — bringing it higher? Or would the same thing happen in reverse: Maybe the people who realized they were lower than average would get even more depressed, dial themselves lower, and thus drag the average back down.

Anyway, I was too lazy to do anything about this. But I was pleased to find out the fine folks at Benrik had roughly the same idea — and they actually pulled it off! Go to the World Mood Chart, input your mood, and it’ll generate chart showing you how the mood of the world has gone up and down that month.

The chart above is for February. Clearly, something happened on Feb. 7 that just totally harshed the world’s mellow, because the mood dropped to somewhere between “Mad As Hell” and “Deeply Depressed”. Any idea as to what went on that day that could have shifted the mood of the entire planet?

(Thanks to Plastic Bag for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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