EMOTIONS spread like a virus in the Twittersphere, say American researchers who have observed that positive joyful tweets are more contagious than negative ones.

Some users of the Twitter social network are more likely than others to be contaminated by the ‘good news’ virus. In other words, happiness is a contagious feeling.

American researchers attempted to measure and analyze ’emotional contagion’ by using a random sample of Twitter users. The tweets of around 3,800 Twitter users were selected and observed for one week in September 2014.

The researchers hypothesized that on Twitter, a social network which is primarily intended for sharing information, there is less ’emotional contagion’ than on Facebook, where users stay in touch with friends and family.

Emilio Ferrara and Zeyao Yang used an algorithm that measured the emotional value of tweets rating them as positive, negative or neutral.

They compared the sentiment of a user’s tweet to the ratio of the sentiment of all the tweets that appeared in that user’s Twitter feed — which were assumed to have been read — during the hour before.

The researchers, who published their results in the journal PLOS One on November 6, noted that a higher number of positive tweets than average in the feed was associated with the production of positive tweets.

In contrast, a higher than average number of negative tweets was associated with the production of negative tweets.

They also identified nearly 20% of users as being highly receptive to ’emotional contagion’. The researchers said that these people were four times more likely to be directly influenced by positive tweets than negative ones.

The users least affected by negative tweets were just under twice as likely to be impacted by positive tweets than negative ones.

Emilio Ferrara said that these results could be helpful in planning interventions on users suffering from depression or other types of mood disorder.

He added: “What you tweet and share on social media outlets matters. Often, you’re not just expressing yourself — you’re influencing others”.

The researchers insisted that their study involved pure observation and not manipulation of the Twitter users.

Link to the study: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0142390

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