Psychologists know that emotions are contagious. If you hang out with someone who is distressed, perhaps at the end of your meeting you can wind up with negative feelings. Now researchers come to draw attention to the fact that feelings expressed in the digital world are equally contagious.
Adam Kramer, the leader of a team from Menlo Park in California wanted to test out if this phenomenon would happen on Facebook. To figure this out, he controled which posts were posted on the latest updates to more than 600,000 users of Facebook. For one week, some users read fewer announcements with negative words, while others saw less positive announcements.
What you think of right now is probably true. Facebook uses us as guinea pigs, not only to understand the kind of ads that people like and click on, but to actually change our feelings. According to the authors of this study were all perfectly legal. Due to an algorithm that was capable of recongizing the positive or negative words that users used in their posts, the researchers were able to sift through the latest updates without actually seeing any text that may be protected by the privacy settings of users. Therefore, the investigation was consistent with the usage policy of Facebook, to which all users agree before going on to create an account on Facebook, the researchers noted. In other words, you agreed to be randomly selected for this type of research when you sing up on Facebook.
The results of their tests showed that people can be affected emotionally. People were more likely to use positive words in their posts on Facebook when they were exposed to less negative posts throughout the week, and vice versa. The effect, according to the researchers, was significant.
If the study is taken seriously, it could affect the way that people deal with harassment online, which is still considered less harmful than bullying in real life. This research suggests you should avoid online disagreements as they are affecting your mood, and these feelings are not going to disappear by turning your computer off.
For more on contagious emotions in real life check: Emotions | Did you know they are contagious?