New study shows emotions in Facebook posts could be contagious


The next time you are feeling low, you could simply login to your Facebook account and read happy posts from your friends.

 

A new study by social scientists at Cornell University, the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Facebook, suggest that emotions can spread through social networks.

 

You may have often heard that those surrounded with happy people stay in good spirit, while those surrounded with angry and negative  people are likely to feel resentment. This is known as 'emotional contagion' and often works in real-world situations. The study says that people go through similar 'emotional contagion' online and emotions via social networks can influence others' moods too.

 

In this study, the researchers selected 689,003 Facebook users and then either reduced the number of positive or negative posts that appeared on their feeds. It worked both ways, says the study. “People who had positive content experimentally reduced on their Facebook news feed, for one week, used more negative words in their status updates,” Jeff Hancock, professor of communication at Cornell University.

 

“This observation, and the fact that people were more emotionally positive in response to positive emotion updates from their friends, stands in contrast to theories that suggest viewing positive posts by friends on Facebook may somehow affect us negatively,” he added. “In fact, this is the result when people are exposed to less positive content, rather than more.”

 

The researchers also observed a withdrawal effect  -  'people who see fewer emotional posts in their feeds are less expressive on the following days'.

 

The study was funded by James S. McDonnell Foundation and Army Research Office. The paper is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

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