Washington: You may be worried about airborne virus that can bring cold or flu but what about emotional contagion spreading fast via online social networks?
According to a new research, Facebook feelings are contagious. Positive posts beget positive posts and negative posts beget negative ones – with the positive posts being more influential, or more contagious.
Emotions might ripple through social networks to generate large-scale synchrony that gives rise to clusters of happy and unhappy individuals.
“People are not just choosing other people like themselves to associate with but actually causing their friends’ emotional expressions to change,” said James Fowler, professor of political science at University of California, San Diego.
We have enough power in this data set to show that emotional expressions spread online and also that positive expressions spread more than negative, he added.
The study analysed over a billion status updates among 100 million Facebook users.
They relied on automated text analysis, through a software programme ‘Linguistic Inquiry Word Count’ to measure the emotional content of each post.
According to them, each additional negative post yields 1.29 more negative posts among one’s friends while each additional positive post yields an additional 1.75 positive posts among friends.
“It is possible that emotional contagion online is even stronger than we were able to measure,” Fowler noted.
The findings are also significant for public well being, said the study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
“If an emotional change in one person spreads and causes a change in many, then we may be dramatically underestimating the effectiveness of efforts to improve mental and physical health,” Fowler explained.