Tweets of the words "beer" and "church" by U.S. county

It's Friday. For many people the weekend will bring two things: Sunday services and late-night booze-fests. Which does your corner of the country hold most dear?

How does one even begin to answer a broad sociological question such as this? Methods vary, but one of the most interesting strategies relies on geocoded data — user-generated, region-specific information which, when collected from large populations, can serve as a highly informative social barometer on everything from the spread of disease to the price of pot in the US.

Online powerhouses like Twitter, Facebook and Google have become massive repositories for geocoded data. Hoping to shed some light on America's regional prioritization of beer and religion, the geo-data experts at Floatingsheep took to Twitter. Their data collection process was relatively straightforward:

  • Gather up all the geotagged tweets sent within the continental U.S. between June 22 and June 28 (roughly 10 million in all)
  • Winnow out all the tweets containing the word "church" or "beer" (17,686 and 14,405 tweets, respectively)
  • Compare the relative mention of beer and church on a county-by-county basis

Tweets of the words "beer" and "church" by U.S. county Et voilà , a visualization of America's devotion to piety and alcohol, 140-characters at a time. Up next: analysis (click to enlarge ). Floatingsheep's Monica Stephens runs us through some of the county-level highlights:

This map clearly illustrates some fairly big regional divides... but it is worth drilling down a bit to see how this plays out at the local level. San Francisco has the largest margin in favor of "beer" tweets (191 compared to 46 for "church") with Boston (Suffolk county) running a close second. Los Angeles has the distinction of containing the most tweets overall (busy, busy thumbs in Southern California). In contrast, Dallas, Texas wins the FloatingSheep award for most geotagged tweets about "church" with 178 compared to only 83 about "beer."

Of course, since these are tweets, the content is decidedly less spiritual than one might expect given the focus on beer and church. For example, the most common example of a "church" tweet was simply a report such as "I am at _______ church". More amusing are what we characterize as "competitive church going" when one person replaces another as the Foursquare "mayor" of a church. "I just ousted Jef N. as the mayor of Dallas Bible Church on @foursquare! 4sq.com/5hNW6x"

This of course echoes the Sermon on the Mount and the famous verse, "Blessed are those who check in for they shall inherit the badges of righteousness."

You'll find more analysis, along with loads more info porn for your perusal, over at Floatingsheep.