Text Analysis: Social Media Emotion Flu

Meme photo by, makeameme.org
Meme photo by, makeameme.org

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!

References


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

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4 thoughts on “Text Analysis: Social Media Emotion Flu”

  1. This was such an interesting post, it really made me think about my news feed on Facebook. I believe that other peoples emotions and what they post on Facebook really does have an impact on the rest of their friends list. I know for instance that when crises around the world occur the majority of people who write a status will all reflect a similar opinion and attitude. I think the way in which you have analysed this text has made it easy to understand the article and the point being made by the author. Bringing in your own examples further supports the claims and studies conducted by the author which adds depth to the post. Great work once again!

  2. When looking for a post to comment on, your title immediately caught my attention. That’s because emotions on Facebook is something that really gets to me. After reading your blog and learning more about what the term ’emotional flu’ meant, it reminded me so much of how my Facebook newsfeed used to be, until I could not take any more. It would only take one person to complain about something in their lives, or to put up a quote that resembles their current miserable mood and then all of a sudden people would comment saying things like ‘amen’ and ‘so true, I know how it feels’ like they have been feeling the same all of a sudden. Furthermore, one post like this meant more people felt it was okay to share their emotions on Facebook and it spiraled from there. Sharing such personal things on social media is something I am against, however it seems as if a hell of a lot of people disagree. I found your blog post really interesting because of my strong views. Thank you

  3. I feel like the “seen at *insert time*” thing on Facebook messenger is part of this. Im totally guilty of feeling crap because that one person “saw” my message and never responded! Lame, but true. Facebook is emotionally exhausting.

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