Your anger could spread to someone else, and it does not really need to be through personal interaction!
It's something that we don't really give a lot of thought to, but our emotions may influence those around us. Have you ever noticed how someone smiles at you, you tend to automatically smile back? "That's a very fleeting contagion of emotion from one person to another," says sociologist Nicholas Christakis of Yale University. But emotions spreading in real life is not the problem, it's about how emotions spread through social media that's really troublesome. It spreads through social media like cold and flu, and the extent to which it can cascade is quite shocking, reports NPR.
Christakis' research has shown that if you live near a friend, and become really happy, there is a 25 percent chance that your friend living closer becomes happy too. Your partner is more likely to feel better as well. It is possible that your happiness can spread even to people you have a connection with. Christakis and his colleagues noted face-to-face interactions of about 5,000 people living in one town over the course of 32 years.
To document this, their emotional ups and downs were noted with periodic surveys. "We were able to show that as one person became happy or sad, it rippled through the network," says Christakis. It is not just happiness that spreads around, even anger and sadness can be contagious. But unlike the above study, you don't really have to be in their vicinity for the emotions to spread, as there is evidence that emotional contagion can spread through digital interactions too.
What do you think your partner feels when you send them a text saying you're sad? A research named 'I'm Sad, You're Sad' concluded that through these kinds of texts, your partner is likely to both sense and mirror your emotions. But how far can this really go? A study of nearly 700,000 Facebook users suggests we can pick up on and mirror the emotions we encounter in our social media feeds too.
As part of the study, alterations were made to users' feeds. Some people in the study began to see more positive posts, while others began to see more negative posts. "We found that when good things were happening in your news feed — to your friends and your family — you also tended to write more positively and less negatively," says Jeff Hancock, a communications researcher at Stanford University and author the two studies on digital interactions.
It came as no doubt that people who viewed more negative posts prompted people to write sadder or angrier things. In comparison, the effects were very small, but according to Hancock, the study suggested that emotions can move through networks and contagion. We've seen a lot of people read mean things about them out loud and it seems like they're unaffected by it, but in reality, it hurts to be at the receiving end of a personal attack.
Another study claims there might be a troll in all of us. Anyone can become an online troll. If you're in a bad mood and read something negative about yourself, the research shows you're more likely to copy the troll-like behavior. Thing is, it is way easier to be meaner from behind a screen than it is to be mean to someone on their face. "There are fewer cues," says Hancock. You don't see or hear the person on the receiving end of your tweet or post. "That makes it a little harder to view you as a person," he says.
Honestly, it doesn't hurt for us to be kind. Not only does it do a lot of good to the people around us, it also helps us feel calmer and composed. There is a lot of scientific evidence that when you're kind or when you express gratitude, there are a lot of benefits. So, before you respond to an angry post on social media, you should probably take a deep breath, and think if this is really needed. Anger only leads to a lot of anger, but a single act of kindness can change a lot.