“A cute baby dolphin for your weekend-viewing pleasure” a Facebook friend of mine writes. Under the text, I see a link to an imgur-hosted image of that amazingly adorable marine mammal. Suddenly, my day is feeling a lot better. Did I just catch a mood… on Facebook?
A new study by Facebook data scientists shows that Facebook users can spread emotions to their friends through messages, posts and status updates. It suggests that emotional contagion happens quite frequently on the world’s biggest social network. Facebook’s Chief Data Scientist Adam Kramer presented these findings at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology on January 27, 2012.
“It’s time to rethink how emotional contagion works, since vocal cues and mimicry aren’t needed,” said Kramer.
To test this out, Kramer used a program that identified words implying positive and negative emotions in Facebook status updates. Kramer looked at status update from one-million English-speaking users over a three-day period in 2010. Each Facebook user he studied had on average 150 friends, which means that this study included approximately 150 million people. The status updates that Kramer looked at were undirected, meaning they were not directed at a specific person.
He discovered that if a user’s status update had more positive than negative words, updates from the user’s friends averaged 7 percent more positive words and 1 percent fewer negative words. The inverse results were similar for negative words posted in a status update. The results were the same regardless of when during the week they were posted.
Did friends view a users’ updates from three days before? Or did they just randomly see stuff in the news feed? Kramer said that there was no way to know. But one thing is for sure.
“Facebook users’ emotions leaks into the emotional worlds of their friends,” Kramer said.
Here’s that cute baby dolphin for your weekend viewing pleasure.
Image courtesy Shutterstock.