John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
You're more likely to get an "F--- you" than a "Good morning" in Buffalo, according to a survey of potty-mouthed Twitter users.
The stereotypical crudity of Americans must be of great interest to foreigners, because we were recently put through a curious test by Ukranians to measure how often we greet others with politeness or with disdain.
The software firm Vertaline, based in Lviv, monitored tweets from 462 U.S. locations in June and July to create its highly unscientific study. Specifically, the engineers logged how often Twitter users said "Good morning" and "Fuck you," and then created "heat maps" depicting the frequency of each type of salutation per day. (Vertaline loves heat maps so much it appears to have painted its office walls with them.) You can see the curse maps here, and the happy-greeting ones here.
And what are the conclusions of this test, at least according to my own informal scan of the daily maps? The cities that like to start their day with a cheery "morning" are Philadelphia; Lubbock, Texas; Atlanta; San Diego; Buffalo; and most anywhere in Illinois, Ohio and Indiana. The Pacific Northwest is very polite, and no one curses in Utah. There are no "good mornings" in a vast slice of the Midwest. Perhaps everyone's too depressed about the drought?
The city that most enjoys greeting the Twitterverse with a flaming F bomb? That would be Buffalo, which as far as I can tell pops up on the heat map every day save one. The San Diego-Los Angeles corridor is an extremely close second, and runner-ups include cities in southern Texas and actually just most of the eastern United States. You can perhaps blame that on I-95's awful gridlock.
So how seriously should we take these results? The top billing of San Diego and Buffalo on both heat maps suggest something other than rudeness and politeness is being measured. Maybe these are simply the cities most wired into Twitter. Or maybe there are some Twitter bots at play in these locations spamming the world with "fucks" and "mornings."
But treating the Buffalo thing as a reality for a minute, I decided to ask my colleague Mark Byrnes, who is from the city, about what could account for his hometown's alleged doody mouth. "We're a notoriously friendly city," he says. "Perhaps Twitter is the outlet for all the pent-up rage we've accumulated from years of being so darn nice to everyone."
Byrnes also guesses that the profanity could be because "another pro athlete made fun of our downtown (this happens regularly)," and that the map could actually be picking up on the anger of nearby Ontario's "depressed residents of Hamilton or St. Catharines."
But he says he's prouder to be on the "Fuck you" than the "Good morning" list. "Nothing makes me want to say 'Fuck you' more than when someone says 'Good morning, Twitter.'"
Top image a sampling of "Fuck you" tweets from July 24, courtesy of Vertaline.