Happiness is viral!

a picture of facebook like flags

Well considering that a recent post was picking up on a negative aspect of social media…Facebook in particular, here is a study published last week that has a happier outcome.

We already know that in the brain there are these 'mirror neurons' that pick up on and replicate the emotional status of the people we spend time with. So if your friend is happy, happy, happy you cant help but pick up approx 40% of their happiness and become that yourself. It makes sense in so many situations. We all talk about the 'atmosphere' at a party or concert and the feeling in the crowd. 

I saw a comedian in a club a while ago and everyone at the gig laughed like loons at his set, then he was on tv and excited I told hubby 'Oh this guys brilliant!' Well, honestly not a titter ensued from either of us, 'You must have been drunk when you watched this 'eejit'' was his withering critique.

Our brains' mirror neurons underlie our intensely social nature and the effect is known as 'emotional contagion.'
So we are all social animals and this mirroring strengthens these bonds of shared experience. A well known phenomena of face to face interaction. But what about tapping away at a keyboard, usually alone, no face to face, no real time social interaction….can this create the same emotional impact?

Well, these researchers analysed over a billion status updates on Facebook and then used a piece of software called the Linguistic Enquiry Word Count that assessed the emotional content of each one.

Sure enough they found that an unhappy status updates inspired an increase in negative posts. However happy status updates had a far more powerful impact on friends own status updates. They inspired a far greater number of happy posts.

"Our study suggests that people are not just choosing other people like themselves to associate with but actually causing their friends' emotional expressions to change," said lead author James Fowler, professor of political science in the Division of Social Sciences and of medical genetics in the School of Medicine at UC San Diego.

"We have enough power in this data set to show that emotional expressions spread online and also that positive expressions spread more than negative," he adds.

And the happy conclusion is that 'Happy status updates are more 'contagious' than unhappy updates'

A picture with the text, I'm feeling what you're feeling