Maine has more hedonists than all but two other states, if our Twitter traffic is to be believed

The dictionary defines “hedonist” as a “person whose life is devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification.”

The term tends to draw to mind a sort of shallow individual who plays fast and loose with morals, bounces in and out of one-night-stands and parties at all hours.

It’s admittedly not as academic a description, but if you want an idea what the common perception of a hedonist is, just do a Google image search for the term “hedonism.” Just make sure there are no children around.

Anyway, it may surprise you to know Maine is full of hedonists, according to at least one measure.

The ranking factory WalletHub — which routinely cranks out state-by-state data comparisons across a wide range of disparate topics — recently released its list of which states are most and least happy, using a range of identifiable criteria. Overall, Maine’s a little melancholy, ranking in the bottom half of all states at No. 32.

But using at least one of the applicable criteria — hedonism — Maine was all the way up at No. 3, behind just Hawaii and Vermont.


Now, to be clear, WalletHub didn’t send spies to our local gravel pits on Friday night to find out what we were all doing and with whom.

This ranking comes directly from Hedonometer, which promotes a much more innocent application of the term.

Hedonometer’s researchers compiled a list of the 10,000 most commonly used words, assigned the words “happiness scores,” and then studied the frequency with which Twitter users from each state Tweeted “happy” or “sad” words.

Some examples of “happy” words are “love,” “celebration” and “joy.” Various conjugations of the word “laugh” represent five out of the top nine “happy” words in Hedonometer’s list.

We’ve run into quick-draw analyses based on Mainers’ Twitter traffic before, and it’s worth pointing out that Twitter users are a very specific sampling of our state’s population. It’s probably not safe to assume that sample accurately represents all Mainers.

Nonetheless, Hedonometer claims its approach is surprisingly accurate, posting the following explanation on its website:

“Tweets represent a non-uniform subsampling of all utterances made by a non-representative subpopulation of all people. However, there are hundreds of millions of people presently using the website to express their activities and interests, and as such it is an important social signal. … We have found that our measure of happiness correlates very well with traditional surveys of well-being.”

So there you have it — Mainers are perhaps hedonists at heart, in the sense that we prioritize happiness and the finer things in life. Or at least we frequently Tweet about laughing.

You may be wondering why, if Mainers are such happy Tweeters, our overall score was in the bottom of the pile.

Well, a big reason is that we have a high depression rate.

depression graphic

In the overall list, the top five spots were held by Utah, Minnesota, Hawaii, Colorado and North Dakota, in that order.

The bottom five — or least happy states — were Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama and West Virginia.

Click on the states below to see their overall ranks, with No. 1 being happiest.

Source: WalletHub