Ever look at social media and find yourself overwhelmed by the negativity of the content, the cynicism and choler, the splenetic outbursts and general ire? Or find yourself similarly frustrated with the state of the world and life, prone to rant and rave yourself? Turns out, there’s a good reason for that. Angry posts are republished and forwarded more often and spread faster, according to a Chinese study of user behavior on Sina Weibo.
The authors of the study, Rui Fan and researchers at Beihang University in China, think anger actually bonds strangers who otherwise have nothing in common. Indeed, weibo has always, at least in part, been a platform for voiceless citizens to communicate. The two topics that are most likely to bring netizens together are sovereignty (e.g., South China Sea) and social issues — neither of which should be a surprise.
MIT Technology Review explains how the study was done:
During six months in 2010, Rui and co collected some 70 million tweets from 200,000 users and constructed a social network in which users are linked if they mutually interact by sending messages to each other or retweeting each other’s tweets, for example.
To ensure that they only studied people who were strongly connected, Rui and co only included people who had more than 30 interactions during the test period.
Next, they determined the sentiment of each tweet in their database by analysing the emoticons they contained. They divided these into four categories, expressing joy, sadness, anger or disgust.
Finally, they studied the way sentiments spread through the network. For example, if one person sent an angry tweet, how likely was it that a recipient would also send an angry message, and how likely was it that the recipient of this message would pass on the same sentiment and so on?
“Anger has a surprisingly higher correlation than other emotions,” the authors conclude.
They neglected to also investigate the frequency of forwarded cat pics. If it was a cat being abused though, they’re saying, it would definitely go viral.
Most Influential Emotions on Social Networks Revealed (MIT Technology Review)