What Happens When You Vent Your Emotions on Facebook?

Have you posted a status on Facebook lately? Researchers have found that the feelings you vent on Facebook can be contagious. The new study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, Yale University, and Facebook Inc., was recently published in PLOS One.

For more than 1,180 days, from January 2009 through March 2012, the researchers analyzed anonymous English-language status updates on Facebook in the top 100 most populous cities in the U.S.

Rainy Days Get You and Your Friends Down

The researchers found that rainy days directly impact the emotional content of people’s status updates. What’s more, the negative emotions they vent relating to bad weather days also influence the status updates of friends who live in other cities, even when there’s not a drop of rain.

What's more, for every one person affected directly, rainfall changed the emotional expression of one to two other people as well, according to the researchers. 

Acknowledging that there are many factors that affect human emotions, the researchers contend that individual expression of emotions can be affected by what others in a person's social network are expressing.

“These results imply that emotions themselves might ripple through social networks to generate large-scale synchrony that gives rise to clusters of happy and unhappy individuals. And new technologies online may be increasing this synchrony by giving people more avenues to express themselves to a wider range of social contacts. As a result, we may see greater spikes in global emotion that could generate increased volatility in everything from political systems to financial markets,” the researchers wrote.

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The effects are small but significant: the researchers found that an average rainy day reduces the number of positive posts by 1.19 percent and also raises the number of negative posts by 1.16 percent. They add, “it is their statistical significance—not size—that matters, since the goal is to use them as instruments to study the effect of exogenous variation in friends' emotional expression on one's own expression.”

James H. Fowler, a professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego and lead author of the study, told Healthline, “Our research shows that both positive and negative messages are contagious on Facebook. If you write a happy post, then your friends will also write more happy posts. Negative messages are also contagious, but we show that happy posts are more contagious than unhappy posts,” he said.

“This study suggests that now, more than ever, we feel what the world feels," Fowler added. "Social media sites have the power to bring our moods in sync, and since they are biased towards positive messages, this could help to create an epidemic of well-being.”

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Now, There’s an App for Your Mood

You've heard of mood rings. Now, there is a mood app called Moodies, developed by Israeli company Beyond Verbal.

How does it work? As a person speaks into their phone, the app extracts, decodes, and measures a full spectrum of human emotions from their raw voice data in real time. After about 20 seconds of speaking, users click a button, which gives them the option to analyze their own voice as well as understand the emotions of individuals around them.

The app offers a running tally of results and allows users to share their mood analysis via email or social media platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter.

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The app builds on physical and neuropsychological studies of more than 70,000 test subjects speaking more than 30 languages. As users speak, Beyond Verbal’s emotion detection systems allow devices and applications to understand an individual's mood, attitude, and decision-making style.

Users can use the app for self-evaluations, building relationships, human resources work, gathering pitch feedback, and overcoming language barriers.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.