Anger Is Contagious On Social Media
September 17, 2013

Anger Most Contagious Emotion For Social Media Users

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Looking to make sure that you get a lot of attention on Facebook or Twitter? Make sure you sound irritated, because according to researchers from Beihang University in China, anger is the most influential emotion when it comes to online social media posts.

In a recently-published study, authors Rui Fan, Jichang Zhao, Yan Chen, and Ke Xu set out to determine exactly what caused like-minded social network users to befriend each other. They looked at Weibo, a Chinese service similar to Twitter that has already attracted over 500 million users in under four years.

“We find the correlation of anger among users is significantly higher than that of joy, which indicates that angry emotion could spread more quickly and broadly in the network, while the correlation of sadness is surprisingly low and highly fluctuated,” the researchers wrote.

“Moreover, there is a stronger sentiment correlation between a pair of users if they share more interactions,” they added. “And users with larger number of friends posses more significant sentiment influence to their neighborhoods. Our findings could provide insights for modeling sentiment influence and propagation in online social networks.”

According to the MIT Technology Review, Rui and his co-authors compiled 70 million microblogging posts from 200,000 users over a six-month period in 2010. They constructed a social network in which users were linked if they mutually interacted with each other in some fashion at least 30 times over the study period.

After ensuring that the relationships were strong, the researchers analyzed emoticons contained in each post, placing each into one of four emotional categories – joy, sadness, anger or disgust. Next, they studied the way that those feelings spread throughout the network (i.e. if one member of the network sent an angry message, how likely would the recipient be to send an angry message, and how long would that chain continue).

The authors found little correlation between users when it came to sadness and disgust, while there was a higher correlation among users who posted joyful messages. The highest levels of correlation, however, were among angry users. Anger strongly influences the community in which it appears, with the researchers reporting that it spreads on average through three degrees – a discovery that the MIT publication said has “significant implications.”

However, as Engadget’s Jon Fingas points out, people shouldn’t necessarily be “too quick to lament the human condition… As researchers note, many of the angry posts were triggered by politics in Weibo's native China. There's a chance that internet denizens on other social networks have a rosier outlook on life.”