Study: Social networks like Facebook can spread moods

Facebook screen "What people feel and say in one place may spread to many parts of the globe," wrote the authors

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A study by researchers at the University of California, Yale, and Facebook has found that moods can spread virally through social media sites such as Facebook.

Using data from millions of Facebook users, the researchers examined the impact of rainy days.

They found that for every one person directly affected by rain, one to two others would also feel the impact.

The study was published in online scientific journal Plos One.

"What people feel and say in one place may spread to many parts of the globe on the very same day," wrote the report's authors.

They added the data suggests that "online social networks may magnify the intensity of global emotional synchrony".

Positive spreads faster

Researchers have long known that emotions can be spread through people via face-to-face interaction, but the new frontier is to examine whether the effect translates to social media interactions.

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We may see greater spikes in global emotion that could generate increased volatility”

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The researchers - some of whom were Facebook employees at the time the research was carried out - analysed the emotional content of billions of updates posted to Facebook between January 2009 and March 2012.

To test whether emotions spread, they looked at how updates changed when it rained.

They found that negative Facebook posts increased by 1.16% and positive posts decreased by 1.19% in response to gloomy weather.

They then looked at the posts of people who were friends with those impacted by rain, but who lived in cities where the weather was not necessarily as bad.

The result? Every sad post generated an extra 1.29 more negative posts than normal among people's friends.

Surprisingly, every happy post had an even stronger impact: if a user posted an upbeat statement, an extra 1.75 positive posts were generated.

"These results imply that emotions themselves might ripple through social networks to generate large-scale synchrony that gives rise to clusters of happy and unhappy individuals," wrote the authors of the report.

"New technologies online may be increasing this synchrony by giving people more avenues to express themselves to a wider range of social contacts," they said.

"As a result, we may see greater spikes in global emotion that could generate increased volatility in everything from political systems to financial markets."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    Moods are another way of saying mental states. There are many moods i pick up on via social media, mostly happy moods generated by good friends who care not to spread doom and gloom. So pick your face book friends wisely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    I don't use facebook as I have no real practical use for it. But internet community attitudes I find quite fascinating.

    I find it quite funny that a lot of posters accumulate here to basically insult/name-call facebook users just for using it... so basically they are all hypocrites of the hive-like negativity they accuse facebook users of having and spreading. What kind of mood did I just spread?

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    So they have wasted lots of money discovering that people are influenced by one another. Absolutely pathetic. Many of us already realise that most people in the modern world won't do or think something without the approval of others. How did we ever sink so low?

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.


    I'm with you on this, I think its very sad when you see people walking along the street looking at their phones devices or whatever you call them, instead of talking to eachother.
    The last straw for me was while I was playing golf and the person I was with thought it appropriate to use his mobile, get a life was my immideate thought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    I found it amazing that people's lives are so interesting that they want to share their every moment with hundreds of people online.

    I meet up with old friends often after not being in contact for a few months, I really look forward to catching up and talking about any news etc. If I was on FaceBook there would be no point in meeting up - they would already know everything that has happened.


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