Social media has a big impact on today’s society. It is our communication link to people we have seen only a mere few minutes ago, (work, uni, school or socially) and to other individuals we have not talked to in person for a certain amount of years, (and be honest, they probably wouldn’t be in your life if it wasn’t for Facebook, Twitter, etc.) All these people are now in our everyday lives when we login to Facebook. They our in our friends list, sharing images or videos, posting statuses, and they are ultimately having an emotional impact, affecting how we feel.
In one of week three’s set readings, “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” Adam Kramer, Jamie Guillory and Jeffery Hancock outline their research into how individuals (message receivers) are affected when they read positive and negative statuses on their Facebook News Feed.
The key phrase in this text to explain their findings is, ‘emotional contagion.’ In Oxford Dictionaries, contagion is clearly defined as the, “communication of disease from one person or organism to another by close contact.”
This signifies that one person communicating an emotion to another individual can ultimately change how the other is feeling. The receiver begins to express an emotion that is not their own. Adam Kramer and the other researchers confirm this at the beginning of their article by saying,
“Emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading them to experience the same emotions as those around them.” (Kramer, A 2014)
The contagion defined though is an example of “close contact” (Oxford Dictionaries 2015) In the article the research is based on social media contagion. So in other words, the research is not based on close physical contact of two individuals conversing; instead it is based on emotional contagion spread via the messenger to the receiver through Facebook posts written and viewed.
The emotions analysed in Kramer’s research is happiness and depression. The article (2014) theorises that people who view positive posts of others on Facebook may have the sensation of feeling alone. It states, “exposure to the happiness of others may actually be depressing to us, producing an “alone together” social comparison effect” (Kramer, A 2014)
Highlighting this concept, Kramer states that emotional contagion happens through, “text-based computer-mediated communication.” (Kramer, A 2014)
As a Facebook user, when we login, the first page we see is the News Feed. It is here that posts from a certain amount of our friends is displayed, and excuse the cliché, but not all posts are gems. As readers we are hit by a wave of positive and negative written emotions. Kramer (2014) outlines this along with why Facebook users only see posts from a handful of friends; he says:
“People frequently express emotions; which are later seen by their friends via Facebook’s “News Feed” product…the News Feed filters posts, stories and activities undertaken by friends.” (Kramer, A 2014) Kramer (2014) also reveals that this is done by Facebook to give users posts they’ll prefer.
By analysing negative and positive words found in statuses, Kramer (2014) claims that negative posts increased by receivers when fewer positive posts were seen on the News Feed, and Positive posts were created when negative posts weren’t seen, proving that friends’ emotions have impact on Facebook. Kramer (2014) adds to this saying, that optimistic responses to positive Facebook posts prove the earlier theory (on the feeling depressed when viewing a positive status) wrong. (Kramer, A 2014)
Overall this text illuminates an interesting aspect on social media and emotions. Take caution; don’t catch the social media emotion flu!
Kramer, Adam D. I., Guillory, Jamie E. & Hancock, Jeffrey T. 2014, ‘Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 111, no. 24, pp. 8788-8790
Oxford Dictionaries 2014, ‘Contagion,’ Oxford Dictionaries: Language Matters, viewed 8 April 2015