Previously we reviewed evidence that the people we live with (family, neighbors, even the larger community of people in a metropolitan area) have an effect on our mood, so it is not surprising to learn of a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of California, Yale, and Facebook that found that moods can go viral, just like ideas and videos.
Social researchers have known for years that emotions spread through face-to-face interaction, but this is the first large-scale study to study whether these effects carry over into interactions on social media.
In gathering data for this study, researchers (some of whom were employed by Facebook at the time) examined billions of status updates posted between January 2009 and March 2012. They specifically examined how updates changed on rainy days. They then looked at posts of people who were Facebook friends with those impacted by rain, but who lived in areas where the weather was not as bad.
The study found that every emotionally negative post as a result of the rain resulted in an additional 1.29 negative posts among the friends of those who made the rain related post. Interestingly, positive emotional posts had an even greater impact. Researchers found that happy posts generated an extra 1.75 positive emotional posts in the user’s Facebook friends.
Both results highlight the evidence that moods can spread widely.
This may be a more sensible explanation for the phenomenon of economic booms and busts than the notion that cycles in the economy somehow reflect rational decision making by investors.
So, if you find yourself in a particularly good mood, it may help your friends feel better if you make a few positive status updates.