September 24, 2013
A new study of Chinese social network Weibo — a platform that resembles Twitter and boasts twice as many users — concludes anger is the most influential emotion in online interactions. What does this tell us about social media, and why is it so much easier to rage at a screen than at a person?
WHAT’S THE DEAL?
Beihang University researchers studied 70 million Weibo “tweets” over a six-month period, sorting them into the emotional categories of anger, joy, sadness, and disgust. While sadness and disgust didn’t appear to cause sympathetic emotion, happy tweets were likely to cause joy among those who follow and retweet them. Unfortunately, rage was the emotion most likely to spread across social media, possessing a ripple effect that could spark irate posts up to three degrees of separation from the original message (so one angry post could negatively influence a follower of a follower of a follower — phew).
This could be seen as more of a study of China’s social media mindset than the mindset of the predominantly Western Twitter community. And the team behind the study seem to be viewing it as a way to explain how societal unrest spreads in China. However, some pretty compelling parallels can be drawn between the two cultures’ behavior.