'Happiness Is Contagious': Positive Emotions Spread Faster On Twitter

First Posted: Nov 10, 2015 12:00 AM EST

Negative emotions are contagious but not as contagious as happy ones, as the saying goes.

A new study zeroes in on Twitter--showing how positive emotions spread like a virus on social media.

During this recent study, researchers examined an analysis of 3,800 randomly chosen Twitter users and found that emotions spread virally through Twitter feeds. Overall, positive emotions were much more likely to catch up than negative ones, the researchers said.

They used an algorithm to measure the emotional value of tweets ranging from positive to negative and everything in between. Then, they compared the sentiment of a user's tweet to the ratio of the sentiments that appeared on the users feed the hour before. While higher than average numbers of positive tweets were linked to the production of positive tweets, the same was true of negative tweets.

Twenty percent of Twitter users were affected by what the study authors referred to as "emotional contagion." However, from all users regardless of emotional susceptibility, positive tweets seemed to hold the most powerful effect and were the most contagious.

Those least likely to be affected by emotional contagion were still a little less than twice as likely to be affected by positive tweets as negative ones. Over all users, regardless of susceptibility, positive emotions were found to be more contagious than negative emotions, the researchers stated. They believe this could potentially be helpful in planning interventions on users experiencing depression or other forms of mood disorders. 

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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