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Positive posts on Facebook can be 'contagious'

Teresa Tanoos's picture
New study says posting emotions on Facebook can spread the same emotion to others.

Posting how you feel on Facebook can be contagious.


Posting positive comments on Facebook can make others generate more positive posts, just as negative posts can do the opposite, although positive comments are more “contagious”, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Whether you’re feeling happy or sad, joyful or depressed, or even angry, sharing it on Facebook can spread whatever mood you’re in onto others, causing your Facebook friends to generate similar posts that reflect emotions similar to yours.

Researchers for the study discovered that both positive and negative posts regarding your emotions tend to spread quickly to your friends who read your posts on Facebook – with positive posts spurring on other positive posts, and negative posts generating more negative posts.

The researchers confirmed, however, that positive posts have a greater likelihood of spreading via Facebook than negative posts do.

Study author James Fowler, a professor at the University of California, reported that the study indicated that for each happy comment you post, your FB friends living in other cities “will be influenced by that to write an additional one or two posts themselves."

Fowler said that this suggests that whatever emotion you are feeling, as expressed in your post, are felt not only by you, but also by your Facebook friends.

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Indeed, earlier studies have demonstrated that both positive and negative emotions can be passed on and spread to others via social networking sites like Facebook.

For this most recent study, Fowler and his fellow researchers evaluated status updates for anonymous Facebook users who lived in 100 of the most densely populated American cities from January 2009 to March 2012.

Using rainy weather as a measuring tool, the research team analyzed what these Facebook users posted about the wet weather conditions, and how such posts influenced what their friends posted.

Fowler used a question, "If it rains on your friend in New York, is it making you a little more miserable on a sunny day in San Diego?" to further explain the objective of the study and the answer he and his research team were striving to find.

And they found the answer to the question, which was yes, if it’s raining on a friend in another city, it is making you feel like it’s raining where you live, even when the sun is shining.

Fowler concluded that the study's findings reveal that “now, more than ever, we feel what the world feels."

SOURCE: PLOS ONE, Detecting Emotional Contagion in Massive Social Networks, Lorenzo Coviello, et al, Published: March 12, 2014DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0090315