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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Facebook may give you a good mood

A new study shows that emotions can spread among users of social media networks.
gulserinak1955_emotions_shutterstock_
Image: gulserinak1955/Shutterstock
If you feel a bit down, maybe you should spend an extra five minutes on Facebook, reading all the happy posts your friends have shared with you throughout the day.
A new study by social scientists at Cornell University, in the US, have found that emotions spread among users of social networks.
It’s a well-known fact that if you are surrounded by happy people, chances are you’ll feel uplifted, because the emotion spreads to others—the same happens if you are surrounded by angry or resentful people, which can cause an epidemic of resentment. This phenomenon is known as “emotional contagion” and it has been demonstrated in real-world situations.This study, however, is the first to show emotions spread and influence the mood of others via online social networks.
The researchers randomly selected 689,003 Facebook users and modified the amount of positive and negative posts that appeared in the users' news feed to measure how those words influence others' status updates and mood.
As per Facebook's data use policy, the scientists didn't see the actual content of the posts, they just were able to count how many times uplifting and bad words appeared in the posts. In their paper, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, they reported that out of 122 million words, 4 million were positive and only 1.8 negative.
“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, said in a news release.
This means that emotions expressed on Facebook may have an impact on others' feelings. In fact the researchers observed that absence of emotional posts in general in people's news feeds caused users to be less expressive in the following days.
"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."