New research reported by MIT Technology Review compares how tweets that channel specific emotions influence other people across the network.
Researcher Rui Fan and his team out of Beihang University in China found that anger is a more influential emotion on Twitter – well, technically Sina Weibo – than joy, sadness and disgust.
How that impacts you, below.
During six months in 2010, Rui Fan and his collaborators collected 70 million tweets from 200,000 Sina Weibo users and constructed a social network for research purposes in which users were linked if they mutually interacted by sending messages to each other by, say, retweeting each other’s tweets.
They determined the sentiment of each tweet in their database by analyzing the emoticons they contained into four categories: joy, sadness, anger or disgust.
The team only studied people already strongly connected by limiting targets to those who had more than 30 interactions during the test period, as the goal of the study was to determine how emotions affect relationships and spread organically throughout Twitter.
- There was very little correlation between user relationships and the spread of sad tweets or disgusted tweets.
- There was a higher correlation among users who tweeted joyful messages.
- By far the most observable pattern was in the spread of angry tweets. Anger spread, on average, 3 degrees. That means that if you send an angry tweet, say complaining about bad customer service at a restaurant, that sentiment is likely to leak into the tweets of not only your followers who saw the tweet, but also their followers, and their followers’ followers.
The emotional ties among social media users provide fodder for fascinating study. The findings above could be useful in planning crisis communications strategies, localizing events to assist in emergency response in decision-making and more.