Social Media: Moods Go Viral

moods go viralResearchers from the University of California, Yale, and Facebook have recently discovered that moods go viral.[1] In fact, when reading posts on social media, many people are emotionally affected and end up becoming caught in the mood of the post.1 Posts that are positive and negative can spread viral moods.1

While it isn’t new knowledge that emotions often spread through face-to-face interaction, this recent study has been the first to investigate whether or not these effects carry over into social media interactions.1 They do: moods go viral.

To gather information for the study, researchers examined billions of status updates that were posted between January 2009 and March 2012.1 They examined specifically how updates changed on rainy days.1 Then, they looked at the posts of people who were Facebook friends with those impacted by the rain, but lived in areas where the weather was not bad.1 What did they find?

Every emotionally negative post as a result of the rain generated an extra 1.29 more negative posts than usual.1 As the saying goes, misery loves company. However, what was more surprising was that positive emotional posts had a larger impact, generating an extra 1.75 positive emotional posts.1 Both results indicate that emotions actually do travel through social media networks, generating clusters of emotional synchronicity.1

Those who are in a profession that is greatly influenced by global emotion—such as politicians and financiers—may be particularly interested in these findings.1 Spikes in global emotion may lead to the generation of political unrest or cause widespread caution in investment markets.1 It can also have an impact on clinical policies, as offering better care for those who are sick or suffering can have a wider effect than just for the single individual.1

Therefore, if you are in a particularly good mood, it may be beneficial to post a couple positive status updates, as happiness is contagious.1 On the other hand, if you find that those on your friends list are bringing your mood down, it may be best to log off and do something to keep your mood positive.1 If those same social media friends are consistently negative, it may be a good idea to unfollow them, as they can consistently impact your emotional state.1

Also, it may be better to keep your negative status updates to a conversation between people face-to-face, as it decreases the impact on others’ moods and can help you feel better by receiving some positive feedback. Not everyone posts to negative updates with encouragement, as many friends and family members will do face-to-face.

[1] Bundrant, M. (2014). The Social Media Mood Virus Discovered. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 26, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/nlp/2014/03/the-social-media-mood-virus-discovered/

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