Americans are more positive on social media than in real life

October 26, 2017

New index measures how people are doing and how people talk about their work, home and play lives.

Life at home is outpacing that at work and play for Americans, and the way they talk about each aspect on social media is often more positive than real-life data suggests. This is according to results of the 2017 U.S. Bank Possibility Index, a comprehensive measure of how people are doing in the areas of work, home and play – and how they talk about their lives online.

The overall Index score (49) is a culmination of data representing work (38), home (51), play (40) and conversation (67). The bank created the Index, which sets a baseline for future years, by analyzing how 20 quantitative variables across work, home and play – from retirement saving to home value to entertainment spending – stack up across the country and how they have changed from the previous year. The bank then looked at qualitative data to gauge the sentiment of social media conversation about each topic. 

"We created the Possibility Index to better understand the factors impacting our customers' financial lives," said Bill Hoffman, chief analytics officer at U.S. Bank, who is partnering with global inclusion and diversity head Greg Cunningham to help bankers bring this data to life for customers' benefit. "Whether it's a frustrated commuter with her sights set on a house closer to the office or a family starting to budget for next year's spring break trip, there's an opportunity for us to help."

The nation's high score in home was driven by factors such as lower crime rates, increased insurance coverage and manageable credit card debt, but limited savings and uneven home value growth lag behind as significant areas for improvement in the year ahead. Work, meanwhile, presents the greatest opportunity as low 401(k) contributions and stagnant household income growth held the score lower despite relatively high scores in labor force participation and education levels. In the middle, play was the nation's most well-rounded area as factors such as dining out, travel and exercise time all scored nearly the same.

"These findings are very helpful to us as we get insights into where people are spending their time and money, which ultimately tells us what is important to them," said Cunningham. "It serves as another set of data we will review as we choose where to spend our time and resources in the communities we serve across the nation. We also hope this translates to individual action. Invest in yourself, your family and your community and watch the ripple effect."

Unlike the other components of the Index, the conversation score was based on qualitative data, measuring the sentiment and passion of online posts and comments. This insight gave color to the findings and showed that chatter around family, love and neighbors were among the most popular.

"The high conversation score can be interpreted in a couple of ways: it may signal a bit of puffery in how we present ourselves on social media or, perhaps, it speaks to Americans' optimistic spirit," said Scott Barry Kaufman, professor of Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, author and spokesperson for the Index. "In either case, in today's increasingly digital age, it's important that we don't judge ourselves based on the Instagram feeds of others. Improving our collective Index score starts with each one of us taking action to improve our life."

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