Study shows emotions are contagious on Facebook

14 Mar 2014

A new study shows that a person’s emotional state on Facebook and other social media can be contagious as other people see their emotional posts.

Published in Plos One, an online scientific journal, the study examined millions of Facebook users and found that on a particularly rainy day in one region could have the same negative emotional effect on a person experiencing no rainfall thousands of miles away.

According to the report “For every one person affected directly, rainfall alters the emotional expression of about one to two other people, suggesting that online social networks may magnify the intensity of global emotional synchrony.”

The report was carried out over a period of three years between 2009 and 2012 and was undertaken by a number of researchers, some of whom were Facebook employees during the time of the study.

On a particularly rainy day in one location, the number of positive posts decreased by 1.19pc and also increased the number of negative posts by 1.16pc.

Despite the focus of their study looking at the effect of negative posts as a result of a rainy day, the team also found that positivity has much stronger contagious reaction online: “The total effect of rainfall on emotional expression is about 150% larger than we would expect if we were only measuring the direct effect on users and ignoring the indirect effect on their friends.

“And intriguingly, although rain is the impetus for this contagion, positive messages appear to be more contagious than negative.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic