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Coffee and Beer Win the Twitter Food Fight

It might come as a surprise to people bombarded with pictures of their friends’ dinners on Facebook and Instagram, but users of Twitter don’t tweet much about their food and talk most about coffee and beer, a new study shows.

And when it comes to mentioning exercise, walking outscores everything else by a huge margin.

Image: Coffee art of Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte
Mark R. Cristino / EPA

It’s not the most rigorous scientific study, but the team at the University of Utah was using federal grant money to try to see if social media can tell us anything about the nation’s health.

“We collected 80 million geotagged tweets from 603,363 unique Twitter users across the contiguous United States,” the team wrote in the Journal of Medical Internet Research – Public Health.

Only about 5 percent of tweets even mentioned food, they found, and fewer than 2 percent mentioned physical activity.

The top 10 tweeted foods:

  • coffee
  • beer
  • pizza
  • Starbucks
  • IPA (beer)
  • wine
  • chicken
  • barbecue
  • ice cream
  • tacos

The team counted 250,000 tweets mentioning coffee and more than 200,000 mentioning beer.

Fewer than 50,000 mentioned bacon and only about 30,000 mentioned salad. Maybe 75,000 mentioned ice cream or tacos, they reported.

Walking scored close to a quarter-million tweets and only dancing came close to that, with about 160,000. Cardio and fishing came in at under 25,000 tweets. A statistic that will surprise friends and neighbors of CrossFit adherents shows mentions of that gym-based workout program –- whose members are encouraged to share their workout joy -- was even with bowling, at just over 25,000 each.

Quynh Nguyen and colleagues also tried to see if they could judge regional happiness by looking at Twitter, using a computer program for processing language for their analysis. “Approximately 20 percent of tweets were happy,” they wrote.

The happiest state, at least on Twitter, was Montana. The least happy state was Louisiana.

The researchers said they do realize that Twitter is not a precise reflection of what people do or how they feel.

“The content of tweets reflects the type of information that people feel comfortable reporting and may not represent the true spectrum of their feelings or their experiences,” they wrote.

“For instance, people may feel most comfortable presenting a neutral stance rather than voicing polarizing viewpoints. Certain foods (cupcakes) may get tweeted more often than others (celery). Additionally, we cannot be certain that the food that was tweeted was indeed consumed.”