Can you blame your bad mood on Facebook?
Is this harsh, never-ending Chicago winter still getting you down? Don’t post about it on Facebook.
A new study published in the journal PLOS One suggests that emotions expressed online can be contagious.
Researchers analyzed Facebook posts from more than 100 million people located in major U.S. cities between January 2009 and March 2012. Using a text analysis software program to ensure anonymity, over a billion status updates were measured for emotional content.
The first thing the researchers noticed was that rainy weather increased the number of negative Facebook posts by 1.16 percent and decreased the number of positive posts by 1.19 percent.
Moreover, they found that negative posts by the people in rainy cities influenced the posts of their friends in non-rainy cities. Each negative post prompted another 1.29 negative posts from a user’s friends.
Thankfully the effect was not confined to negative emotions. The researchers found that upbeat statuses were even more contagious. Each happy post encouraged an additional 1.75 happy updates from a user’s friends.
Previous studies have shown that emotion spreads among people – whether it be friends, acquaintances or strangers – in direct, person-to-person contact; however, whether or not the same phenomenon happens through online social networks hasn’t been as clear.
“We have confirmed here that individual expression of emotions depends on what others in an individual’s social network are expressing,” the study authors write. “These results imply that emotions themselves might ripple through social networks to generate large-scale synchrony that gives rise to clusters of happy and unhappy individuals.”
So if you’re in a negative mood, try finding a healthy outlet rather than turning to social media, says Dr. Allison Benthal, an internal medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group in Libertyville, Ill.
“Use social media as a means to connect rather than vent,” says Dr. Benthal. “If you need to blow off some steam, go for a walk, kick around a soccer ball with a friend or meditate.”
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.