Facebook used the News Feeds of 689,003 users to test for “emotional contagion” in a psychological experiment.
Researchers at Facebook wanted to test if the emotional transfer we experience face-to-face can also occur online, Gizmodo reports. “Emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion,” the authors said. “Leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness.”
They created an algorithm to categorize words in Facebook posts as positive or negative. Using the algorithm, the team altered the posts that appeared on users’ News Feeds. For one week, posts that appeared were either more positive or more negative. The results show that even though there is no direct interaction going on between two people, emotional transfer still occurs. Users who experienced happier News Feeds posted happier statuses, and more negative News Feeds produced melancholy statuses.
These findings are the first statistical proof that social media can affect our emotions. “These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions,” the authors explained. “In-person interaction and nonverbal cues are not strictly necessary for emotional contagion.”