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Study: Anger On The Internet Contagious

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  • Study: Anger On The Internet ContagiousMore>>

  • Anger spreads like the plague on social media

    Anger spreads like the plague on social media

    If you want to get retweeted, sound like an angry crank. That's the lesson of a newly released study, which investigated how messages containing different emotions spread on social networks.
    If you want to get retweeted, sound like an angry crank. That's the lesson of a newly released study, which investigated how messages containing different emotions spread on social networks.

Sounding off about the controversial Miley Cyrus video will more likely get you retweeted before you post about your happy day. Have you ever noticed a difference in your mood when you log off facebook or twitter? Specifically, you're really mad all of a sudden. That's because anger on the internet is contagious.

A team of researchers in China found anger spreads on the internet quicker than any other emotion. Researchers at China's Beihang University investigated how messages containing different emotions spread on social networks. According to a new research, diplomatic and social issues are the driving force to interaction on social media.

In 2010, computer science researcher Rui Fan and his team collected 70 million "tweets" from 200,000 users of Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like social network popular in China. (In fact, Weibo has roughly twice the number of users as Twitter does, some 500 million.)

The team set out to find what type of posts would get the most retweets. What they found was that anger was the most viral emotion of all. Angry tweets cause a ripple of more angry tweets. Sometimes up to three degree of separation from the original user.

Using emoticons as their guide, the researchers then separated tweets into four categories of emotions: Anger, joy, sadness, and disgust. Previous similar studies, the researchers note, have only divided messages into two categories, positive and negative, which they believe provides limited usefulness in ascertaining the spread of sentiment among an online community.

Surprisingly to the researchers, the spread of sadness and disgust among Weibo users was "trivial." Joyful tweets had more influence on other users. But anger – well, that was the most viral emotion of all.

"Our results show that anger is more influential than other emotions like joy, which indicates that the angry tweets can spread quickly and broadly in the network," the researchers wrote. "While out of our expectation, the correlation of sadness is low."

Rui's team believes that their findings may explain the spread of societal unrest in China, especially where social and political problems are concerned. "Through keywords and topics mining in retweeted angry tweets, we find the public opinion toward social problems and diplomatic issues are always angry," say the researchers.

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