April showers can give you the blues; but if you recently checked your Facebook page, your foul mood might not be weather related. Emotional spillover from social media interactions can have a surprisingly strong influence on your emotions.
Checking your Facebook updates or wall posts first thing in the morning can color the rest of your day; sending your spirits either plummeting or soaring. Coping with a psyche buffeted by our friends’ fickle moods seems to be the price we pay for living in a hyper-connected world.
The “Facebook blues” appear to be a universal and worldwide phenomenon. A recently published analysis of more than a billion Facebook status updates found that positive posts lead to more positive posts and negative posts generate more negative posts.
Like a pebble tossed into a pond, Facebook generates an emotional ripple effect as messages are read and passed from friend to friend. The content of the message may change, but the emotional flavor of the original message remains as connections flow through the online community.
Not surprisingly, weather influences the emotional flavor of social media interactions. Researchers found that rainy weather increased negative posts. Perhaps because of the empathetic nature of social interactions, rainy-day posts were even able to dampen the spirits of friends who were enjoying a day of sunshine.
Interestingly, researchers found that shared emotions spread exponentially on social media. “Every message that you post causes your friends to post an additional one to two messages that have the same emotional content,” study author James Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine, explained to the Los Angeles Times. Fowler noted that global networking could lead to “spikes in global emotion that could generate increased volatility in everything from political systems to financial markets.”
That’s no idle concern. A Chinese study mentioned in Smithsonian found that anger spread faster than joy among online communities. The only emotion that outpaced anger was awe. “Awe gets our hearts racing and our blood pumping,” said Jonah Berger, professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “This increases our desire for emotional connection and drives us to share.”