Rebecca Holman | Editor | 1,252 day ago

Apparently Bad Moods On Social Media Are Contagious

The Debrief: Next time you post a misery status on Facebook, remember, bad moods can be catching

Tempted to post a misery-inducing Facebook update about the shit weather, your shit commute or that shit meeting you’ve just been in? You might want to hold off, because it turns out that Facebook updates can be contagious.

Researchers in America have analysed over a billion updates from about a million Facebook users and have discovered that negative posts have a domino effect. One misery guts post from you, and 30 or so of your friends will feel compared to share their own doom and gloom.

 ‘People are not just choosing other people like themselves to associate with, but are actually causing their friends' emotional expressions to change,’ said James Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California in San Diego.

According to Fowler, every downbeat post triggered an extra 1.29 more negative posts than normal among people's friends. Every happy post led to an extra 1.75 positive posts among friends. If you’re happy, your friends are happy too - if you’re miserable, so are they.

Hmmm, I’m not sure if I buy this - mainly because I’m a snarky cow who loves nothing better than evidence that other people’s lives are that bit shitter than mine. And there's nothing more annoying when you’re having a bad day than someone else’s smug posting post about how happy they are - with their amazing life/boyfriend/perfectly brewed craft beer? If my middle name wasn’t Anne, it would be schadenfreude.

I’m not a total sociopath - when my actual friends (the ones I’d speak to twice a week, even if Facebook didn’t exist) are feeling upset or sad, then I feel the same way. Who wants their friends to be unhappy? But I’d find it hard to drum up the same feelings of empathy of 250 virtual strangers who I’ve met three times in my life (i.e. most of my Facebook feed). A sign that I’m the only island of sanity in an overly emotional, hyper-connected world? Possibly. Or maybe I'm just really miserable.

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Tags: Facebook et al