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Positive or negative Facebook posts have a domino effect on users

A new study from America has cast some light on exactly how much negative and positive posts on Facebook affect other users reading them.

Moods are contagious on Facebook, researchers from the University of California in San Diego noted, and negative posts produce more downbeat updates from others, whereas positive posts produce the opposite.

Or to put it another way – what human beings say affects other human beings. Yes, it is all a bit Ministry of Stating the Bleedin’ Obvious…

The researchers do say that it’s a well-known fact that people’s emotions spread in person, but that this isn’t necessarily the case online. We would argue that the latter is pretty patently true, as well – whatever your friends say affects you, whether it’s direct conversation, texts, online updates, or a note tied to a brick through your window.

But to be fair, the research is thorough – analysing over a billion updates, across a million users, over a period of three years – and it does pinpoint exactly how much positivity or negativity is triggered by cheery or bleak status updates respectively.

The study centred on rain (that familiar catalyst of misery, particularly this winter), and it measured how the tone of status updates changed when it rained. Apparently this has a measurable effect on updates to the tune of an uptick in negative posts by 1.16 per cent if it’s raining, with a slide of 1.19 per cent in positive posts.

The scientists then looked at the updates of friends in a different city, but one where it wasn’t raining – and each original negative post trigged an extra 1.29 negative posts among dry-area friends. Each happy post resulted in a boost of 1.75 positive ones.

The Guardian notes that James Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, commented: “To get away from measuring the effect of the rain itself, we had to exclude the effects of posts on friends who live in the same cities. But we have a pretty good sense from other studies that people who live near each other have stronger relationships and influence each other even more. If we could measure those relationships, we would probably find even more contagion.”