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Analysis of Instagram selfies shows places where people smile the most in the US

The Happiest Cities and States in the United States
(Image credit: HouseFresh)

Ever wondered what it might be like to live in a different state? Would your quality of life improve, or would you be any happier? The perfect hometown will look different for everyone, but when it comes to matters of mental health and personal happiness, where you live is a very important factor that can be make or break. 

New research based around Instagram selfies has been curated to determine the happiest and smiliest cities in the United States. Happiness and a genuine smile can be a difficult thing to measure, unless you're using AI software tools.

• Interested in the best selfie cameras (opens in new tab) or best cameras for Instagram (opens in new tab)?

Now you may be thinking, "how can this possibly be reliable research?", as almost everyone now tends to hide behind a fake smile on social media - and an entire generation has become pretty adept at spotting this fakery. 

Many of us on Instagram only tend to share the happiest and most picturesque moments of our lives, aesthetically concealing the everyday emotions and factors that are occurring offline. Our smiley selfies, no matter how genuine, can always give away subtle clues. And thankfully robots are now much more selfie-literate, too, as HouseFresh (opens in new tab) puts it. 

Their analyst team has challenged these emotion detecting AI's with a test, using Microsoft’s face recognition API, Azure (opens in new tab), to analyze a database of Instagram selfies captured from every state -as well as the 100 biggest cities in the US - to determine which of these locations are the "happiest" and "smiliest" places to live.

Top 20 smiliest cities in the US (Image credit: HouseFresh)
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The Microsoft Azure API tool provides a value between O and 1 for eight key emotions and smile intensities established. The HouseFresh team of analysts then converted this happiness score into a 100-point system, and ranked each location, city, and state based on the average value. 

For selfies that contained big smiles, the researchers considered a smile intensity rating of 0.75 or over to be considered as a representative of a "cheesy" smile.

Take a good look at the final results kindly shared with us by HouseFresh, and their awesome infographics, to learn which states are supposedly generating the most cheesy-grinned selfies and are as a result deemed to have the happiest residents.

Top 20 happiest cities in the US (Image credit: HouseFresh)
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Key findings:

Top smiliest states in the US (Image credit: HouseFresh)
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Even using Microsoft's technology, there's no guarantee that this data and research is 100% accurate or reliable. Just because someone has posted a selfie on social media that might be convincing enough to trick an AI, does not mean that they are truly happy, and similarly, happiness can be shared on social media through other expressions such as a love for landscapes, gardening, pets and family photos. 

Not everyone enjoys snapping a selfie, and not everyone has Instagram, but some do – and therefore as we always say – this research should be taken with a pinch of salt and considered as a rough guide only to the happiest geotagged US states compiled from a limited data set that excludes proportions of the population. 

Top happiest states in the US (Image credit: HouseFresh)
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You may also want to take a look at our recommendations for the best selfie sticks (opens in new tab), discover the 20 best podcasts for photographers (opens in new tab) to boost your mood, or perhaps you're in need of 10 tips for Instagram success with your photography (opens in new tab).

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Beth Nicholls
Staff Writer

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.