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 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 41.

    I stopped using Facebook when during a meeting it was disclosed that social media is now being looked at to weight people for loan applications & mortgages, based on thier 'friends behaviour' & key words too. If your feed starts containing words like skint, drunk, overdrawn etc etc, don't be surprised if your next loan gets denied.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    In short - Social interaction causes people to feel emotions...

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Drop Facebook and pick up a real book (or ebook), you may find yourself having more interesting conversation when you speak to real friends.

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    The BBC lose Michel Roux because of his sponsors but on every program we see they do an advert for F*c*book & Tw*tter.
    It's now regarded that any dissenting comments on social media give the west the right to support anti democracy groups and install their own corrupt puppet leaders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    I have used facebook since 2006. since then my experiences on it have progressively gotten worse. It was great at the start due to feeling more involved with my friends on a more frequent basis, however my romantic relationships have struggled.

  • Comment number 35.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Of course sheep will copy each other... they're on farcebook.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    It's interesting how, 2 generations ago, it was television which most influenced young peoples' moods.

    Now with the advent of Facebook and Twitter, it appears that reading is back on the agenda as something which affects our lives on a daily basis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Yawn, so what.

    Most people have experienced a work boss, collegue, a teacher, etc being negative due to problems in personal life, this negativity often rubs off on those around experiencing it so their outlook for the day also becomes depressed/negative.

    Negative moods spread when ManUtd lose, I would have thought the Samaritons would be inundated due to results since Fergie left

  • 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.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.


    The problem with your comment is that oftentimes it becomes the defacto standard for communication and for submitting feedback.

    The same is becoming true for paying bills and paying for goods - this is why it is important to support the continued use of CASH

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    My happiness-index upscaled itself to 100% once I closed my Facespook account, or rather 'hid' my profile from myself as nothing ever gets removed from the site, but regardless it was a real mood-enhancer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Perhaps the quality and content of comments users see on facebook reflects the type of friends they accept.
    I find it strange when commenters (for example 3) describe using facebook in a valid way to contact friends and family way and are voted down.
    Like any other tool it can be used and abused

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Oh Lordy not another Facebook advert please spend my licence fee on something else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    I have a huge family and find Facebook is a great way of keeping in touch and up to date, when we otherwise wouldn't have the time.

    OK, I know it's not to everyone's taste so if you don't like it, stay away. It isn't obligatory. Just don't look down on those of us who appreciate the simple way to keep in touch with family and friends.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Who choses the topics for HYS?

    With important things going on we get instead the chance to comment on unimportant banalities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    It took a "study" to find this out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Facetube is for 15-year-olds.

    I lost a long and dear friend because of a misunderstanding concerning that awful site.

    Never again.


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