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Since its public launch 10 years ago, Twitter has been used as a social networking platform among friends, an instant messaging service for smartphone users and a promotional tool for corporations and politicians.

But it’s also been an invaluable source of data for researchers and scientists – like myself – who want to study how humans feel and function within complex social systems.

By analyzing tweets, we’ve been able to observe and collect data on the social interactions of millions of people “in the wild,” outside of controlled laboratory experiments.

It’s enabled us to develop tools for monitoring the collective emotions of large populations, find the happiest places in the United States and much more.

So how, exactly, did Twitter become such a unique resource for computational social scientists? And what has it allowed us to discover?

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Image: Mixy Lorenzo via Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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