As the classic adage goes: you are what you tweet.
Meh, close enough.
If it holds true though, then Americans are likely to be a jumpy, jittery bunch. A new study that took in nearly 80 million tweets found coffee to be the most tweeted-about consumable in America. Starbucks, coincidentally, was the most popular fast-food restaurant on the social media platform by a significant margin.
The study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Public Health and Surveillance, leveraged Twitter to learn more about the health of people across the U.S.
“Increasingly we’re seeing more and more studies looking at health beyond just disease, incorporating indicators of wellbeing,” says Quynh Nguyen, lead author of the study, and an assistant professor at the University of Utah College of Health.
Nguyen’s team narrowed in on geo-located tweets about food, exercise, and happiness, comparing them to census data and healthy surveys. And from 140-characters a pop, they gathered a surprising amount of insightful data.
What were the most-talked about foods on Twitter? The top edibles, as tweeted by Americans, were coffee, beer, pizza, wine, chicken, BBQ, ice cream and tacos. In terms of restaurant chains, Chipotle, Taco Bell, and Buffalo Wild Wings followed Starbucks as the top-tweeted food franchises.
While the team’s algorithms were solid for the most part, they did have flaws. For example, they couldn’t understand why curry was so damn popular – until they realized Twitter is just a really big fan of two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry, not the spicy food.
Other notables from the study found:
- Tweets from poorer neighbourhoods were less likely to involve healthy foods
- Areas with healthy food tweets had lower rates of chronic disease, and death
- The most popular physical activity tweets mentioned walking, dancing, running, workouts, golf, swimming, hiking, yoga and bowling
“What was kind of nice, from a health and emotion perspective, was that tweets that mentioned food were actually happier than tweets that did not mention food, and tweets that mention healthy foods were the happiest,” Nguyen said.
“Healthy food and physical activity were the happiest kind of tweets.”
Check out the in-progress map of their results here.