Sunday, October 10, 2010
Happiness is a New Pair of Ears
Most of rural Northumberland isn’t on the map. While the rest of the UK is marked green or dark blue, where I live is just a white void. Perhaps nobody round here has an iPhone, or maybe we’re just too happy to care, but so far my part of the world has yet to appear on Mappiness, the latest online phenomenon.
It’s a project being run by two jolly academics from the London School of Economics with (judging by the profiles on their website) rather irritatingly smiley faces. They look like happy-clappy christian converts, the kind that you want to argue with just to wipe a frown across their annoyingly self-righteous foreheads. Their mission is to find out how happy we all are.
They’re measuring the nation’s mood swings on something they call a hedonimeter. They expected 3,000 people to sign up, but there must be so many iPhone addicts bored with life, 20,000 downloaded the “app” in the first three weeks. Once you’re happily apped up, your phone beeps two or three times a day and asks you how you’re feeling, what you’re doing and whom you’re with. You’re then invited to upload a photo of where you are.
So far, it seems people in Dorset and Arbroath are the happiest, City bankers are miserable, and people in Northumberland don’t exist. It pops your information into its database, and draws you a flowchart of just how miserable you have been since you joined.
In the last 24 hours, I found just five people from Tyneside on the map, all of whom had proclaimed themselves very happy indeed by uploading blurry photographs of half empty beerglasses in garishly lit bars. So I guess Saturday night was a success, then. There was also a single photo of a public loo in Gosforth with the caption “extremely happy” – I guess this euphoria was caused by relief at finding one open at 3am after a night in the Bigg Market (not that people in the Bigg Market normally bother with such niceties).
Mappiness was set up to monitor how people’s feelings are affected by their environment. Are people less happy when they’re surrounded by pollution, loud noise and bad body odour? Not the sort of question you might think you’d need a research grant to answer, but I suppose universities have to justify the impending hike in tuition fees.
Already this vital scientific investigation has discovered that, shock horror, people are happier at the weekends (apparently Sunday lunchtime is quite a happy moment, presumably just after the hair of the dog that lifts you out of your hangover and before the miserable realisation that it’ll be Monday tomorrow), whereas Tuesday is the pits (because there’s so much of the working week still to go, I would hazard – but then I’m not an academic, so we must await publication of the official findings in a couple of years’ time).
I reckon my own personal happiness has nothing to do with my environment and everything to do with the mood of people who may or may not want to buy my television programme ideas. Right now there’s a bloke in Los Angeles called Simon who’s trying to decide whether or not to give me a series. I’d love to have a hedonimeter on him, so that I could judge exactly when to make my final pitch. Catch him in a bad mood, or on a Tuesday, and we’re sunk. Get him just after lunch on Sunday and I reckon we’re in.
In the meantime, my wife does have an iPhone, which I’ve just borrowed to take photographs of Izzy giggling hysterically while wearing some absurd comedy ears she found in a drawer.
Now I don’t need an academic with a hedonimeter to tell me that these are pictures of true happiness.