Using Social Media Is Probably Making You Angrier

Science & Tech / Web Culture

Using Social Media Is Probably Making You Angrier

By: Chris O'Shea

Even on the Internet, we all want to be like one another. That's one takeaway from a study on emotions displayed on social networking sites. Another takeaway? The Internet, and using social media in particular, is making us all angrier. Rui Fan and a team of colleagues at Beihang University in China wanted to know if certain emotions displayed on social networking sites have more impact than other emotions, and the one that clearly stuck out was anger.

Fan — along with Jichang Zhao, Yan Chen and Ke Xu — published their findings in a paper titled "Anger is More Influential Than Joy: Sentiment Correlation on Wiebo". Weibo (if you haven't heard of it by now) is China's form of Twitter. Fan and his team studied Weibo users for a period six months in 2010. They collected about 70 million tweets from about 200,000 users, and then created a separate network wherein users were connected if they interact with each other, either by tweeting each other or retweeting one another's tweets. To make sure they had people who were strongly connected to one another, the only users they considered were those who had 30 interactions between each other during the six months.

After they had the users collected, they started crunching the numbers. They determined emotions via emoticons that were used in tweets, and divided the emotions into four subsections: joy, sadness, anger, or disgust. Next, Fan and his team studied how the emotions spread throughout the network. The highest correlation between users were tweets that fell into the anger category. The runner-up was joy, followed by sadness then disgust.

"We find the correlation of anger among users is significantly higher than that of joy, which indicates that angry emotion could spread more quickly and broadly in the network," the team explained in their report. "While the correlation of sadness is surprisingly low and highly fluctuated. Moreover, there is a stronger sentiment correlation between a pair of users if they share more interactions. And users with larger number of friends posses more significant sentiment influence to their neighborhoods."

Of course who knows if this is specific to China, or even Weibo. Perhaps the Chinese just had a terrible few months in 2010, and took to social media to express and unleash thier emotions. But the more likely answer as to why angry tweets are more likely to spread is that venting online has almost zero consequences. You can tweet that you're mad, or yell at someone for saying something, without actually having to deal with anything come of it. So users feel more free to say angry things, even if they're not angry in real life. Regardless, if you're trying to get followers, might as well find something to be mad about.

[Pic via Flickr - Steve Garfield]

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