A favorite refrain of technology skeptics is Twitter, with its short, fleeting messages, a silly place where people go to "tweet about their lunch." As it turns out, Twitter can tell us a lot about what a society eats.
That's according to a fascinating analysis of food-related language on Twitter conducted by University of Arizona researchers, who researchers analyzed 3.5 million tweets with food-related hashtags — like "breakfast" and "soysauce" — pulled from Twitter's API between October 2013 and May 2014, in order to divine a digital picture of America's dietary habits.
As the team identified distinctive food words for each state, patterns began to emerge:
The regional Twitter trends seem to reflect real-life ones: "Grits" is particularly popular in southern states, and various types of seafood — halbut, cod, caviar — are common in coastal states.
Twitter, as it turns out, actually is a fascinating data source for computer scientists. "People are less sensitive about food," information scientist Mihai Surdeanu told the Verge. "They're more likely to tweet that they ate a big burger than they did not exercise."
The researchers uncovered regional differences in the popularity of certain meals by examining the #breakfast, #brunch, #lunch and #dinner hashtags.
The researchers also yielded some interesting insights based on hometowns:
And, using the voting histories of targeted locales, some telling trends based on political orientation:
While this research is fascinating, it's maybe not as representative as we may think:
@jaredbkeller Caviar may be b/c there's a foodie app called that.— Clara Jeffery (@ClaraJeffery) September 20, 2014
h/t the Verge