Facebook Emotion Contagious


If you are on Facebook, recheck your friend list. People with negative friends, whose posts are going viral, will infect their friends with a negative feeling as well.  On the positive end, the cure is spreading faster, with positive posts spreading more widely, according to a new study.  Emotions are contagious and Facebook users are spreading their feelings, affecting others across the country.

This is from a study where over a billion status updates were made anonymous, between Jan 2009 and March 2012. The finding, made public on PLOS ONE was obtained from over 100 million different users across all major U.S. cities. Constructive posts results in more positive posts and negative posts work likewise by spreading more negative posts. Nevertheless, optimism is a better contagion, and the more cheerful posts are more likely to swell.

The UC San Diego political scientist James fowler, lead author of the study, said that they wanted to see if emotional changes of one person could cause emotional changes in another, noting it was actually what they observed. He is a professor in political science as well as medical genetics at UCSD.

They made track of rainfall and watched how cloudy days in Chicago would affect Diego friend’s feelings about the weather on particular days. “When it rains on you, you write more negative posts,” Fowler said, “but it affects your friends too.”

They mainly focused on rainy weather because it is correlated to negative moods. Nevertheless, to get rid of any topic contagion, they were searching for phrases containing “sad” or “happy” so the spread of emotion could stay in focus.  Dr. Fowler explained they were looking for posts where it was raining on a user making him/her to write negative posts.

The study observed positivity was the more effective virus. For every person with positive status, there would be like 1.75% of that person’s friends who then made positive posts. The negative status updates only spread through 1.29% of their friends. This is because Facebook was intended to promote positivity, according to Dr. Fowler. He pointed out the “like” button with no “dislike” button as an example.

Authors said that the findings imply emotions can be rippling around social networks forming “large-scale synchrony” that give rise to clusters of happy and unhappy persons. They also noted that there could be wider implications beyond Facebook and predicted other means of transferring contagious emotions elsewhere. They anticipate political and financial markets could be affected by “greater spikes global emoticon.”

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