Australian scientists have developed the world's first Twitter tool that can map moods around the globe in real-time to help improve the allocation of mental health services.
The online tool called 'We Feel' will help understand how our emotions fluctuate over time due to changes in social, economic and environmental factors such as weather, time of day, news of a natural disaster or political instability, researchers said.
Researchers from Black Dog Institute and The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) unveiled 'We Feel' which analyses the words from millions of tweets to display a real-time view of our emotions.
It is hoped the tool could help understand how our collective mood changes and could help monitor community mental health and predict where services need to be assigned.
In the first instance, We Feel will help researchers verify whether the large and fast sample of information coming from Twitter can accurately map our emotions.
We Feel represents the world's first foray into understanding how social media can be used to detect poor mental health and observe shifts according to time and place, Professor Helen Christensen, Black Dog Institute Director said.
"The power of this information cannot be underestimated. Currently, mental health researchers and associated public health programmes use population data that can be over five years old," said Christensen.
"Should the real-time data gained using this incredible tool prove accurate, we will have the unique opportunity to monitor the emotional state of people across different geographical areas and ultimately predict when and where potentially life-saving services are required," said Christensen.
"We Feel looks for up to 600 specific words in a stream of around 27 million tweets per day and maps them to a hierarchy of emotions which includes love, joy, surprise, anger, sadness and fear," said Dr Cecile Paris, Research leader in language and social computing at CSIRO's Digital Productivity and Services Flagship.
"You can explore emotion and trends on a minute by minute time scale, across locations around the globe and gender to further refine the results," said Paris.