Emotional Resilience Blog from The Fear Course

The latest research, realisations and thinking in the world of emotional resilience, anxiety and fear reduction from around the world.

Feeling low? It could be your social media friends...or the weather... or you!

Feeling low? It could be your social media friends...or the weather... or you!

Are you having a good day? Share it! Having a bad day? Keep it to yourself!

An interesting study published last week by a team of researchers from The University of California, San Diago, Yale and Facebook have found that a phenomenon I am currently writing about in my next book, emotional contagion, or how we catch emotions from each other, is present in social networks like twitter and Facebook. 
This paper has been quite widely reported in a number of news networks in the last few days, however there are some other findings that were not reported.

The main finding you may have read about, is that if someone in your online social network expresses a negative or a positive emotion we are likely to be influenced by that emotion. So say one of your Facebook friends days she is feeling depressed today, this is quite likely to have a negative effect on the other people in her network. This is called emotional contagion. We catch other peoples emotions.

What has not been reported as widely however, when you read the actual paper, is that this effect works for both negative and positive emotions. So happy people spread happiness and miserable people spread misery. Emotional contagion is a well documented phenomenon and I am not surprised to find it happening across social networks. However another finding from this paper is a little more interesting. If a thread starts on a negative, say someone in your network posts a message that they are not happy and this feeling effects other people and messages of sympathy start to build one positive post in the thread can stop the contagion and even turn it around. The opposite was also found. If there is a positive wave of emotion being expressed between friends one negative post can often stop the positive emotions dead in their tracks. 
This then, gives us the possibility to turn around and control the wave of emotion contagion.

A third and lesser finding was a fairly direct correlation with rain and chance of negative emotions being expressed and therefore caught even in places it isn’t raining!

There was one side effect happening I noticed in the data. The study was done across 100 US cities and I also noticed that people in New York City appeared to be influenced more negatively by rain than people in almost any other city. They also tended to be more vocal about it and affected, in turn, negatively, more people! 

Oh and to end on a positive, the researchers found a trend (not significant and therefore could be due to chance) that positive emotions tend to spread further.

Have a good day. :-)


Coviello L, Sohn Y, Kramer ADI, Marlow C, Franceschetti M, et al. (2014) Detecting Emotional Contagion in Massive Social Networks. PLoS ONE 9(3): e90315. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0090315What's your social media poison? Facebook, Twitter, Pinetrest? A study published

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