The Global Fool

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Emotional Contagion and Social Networks
Jun15

Emotional Contagion and Social Networks

By Roberta Attanasio More than two decades ago, Gerald Schoenewolf described emotional contagion as a process in which a person or group influences the behavior of another person or group through the conscious or unconscious induction of emotional states and behavioral attitudes. However, “The science of emotional contagion goes back to 400 B.C., when Hippocrates, the founder of medicine, observed that some women seemed to transfer “hysteria” to one another. By the 1700s, researchers began to discover that people mirror the smiles and frowns they see on someone else’s face. In the late 1800s, German psychologist Theodor Lipps took the idea a step further, suggesting that this unconscious imitation was the root of empathy. But it’s only within the past several decades that scientists have begun to understand the dynamics behind such exchanges, finding that “emotional contagion” affects all human relationships, from marriage to business to professional sports.” Now, in a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on June 2, 2014, social scientists at Cornell University, the University of California, San Francisco, and Facebook, report novel findings about the spread of emotions among users of online social networks. The study (Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks) — carried out with 689,003 randomly selected Facebook users — manipulated the extent to which people were exposed to emotional expressions in their News Feed. Results show that emotional states can be transferred to others, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness. Jeff Hancock, one of the scientists involved in the study, said in a  press release “People who had positive content experimentally reduced on their Facebook news feed, for one week, used more negative words in their status updates. When news feed negativity was reduced, the opposite pattern occurred: significantly more positive words were used in peoples’ status updates.” The scientists never saw the content of actual posts, per Facebook’s data use policy; instead, they counted only the occurrence of positive and negative words in more than 3 million posts, for a total of 122 million words. They report that 4 million of those words were “positive” and 1.8 million were “negative.” Interestingly, 22.4% of posts contained “negative” words, whereas 46.8% of posts contained “positive” words, thus indicating that the number of “negative” posts on Facebook is about half the number of the “positive” ones. Hancock said peoples’ emotional expressions on Facebook predicted their friends’ emotional expressions, even days later. Jalees Rehman reminds us that “The fact that the researchers relied on the general Facebook Data Use Policy as sufficient permission to conduct this research (manipulating News Feeds and analyzing emotional content) should serve as a reminder that when we...

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Embarrassing Facebook Posts May Cause Anguish
Dec10

Embarrassing Facebook Posts May Cause Anguish

By The Editors A new study from Northwestern University explores the strength of the emotional response to “violations” or ”threats” on Facebook – something that gets posted and results in embarrassment and may, sometimes, create anguish. Jeremy Birnholtz, one of the researchers, said: “Almost every participant in the study could describe something that happened on Facebook in the past six months that was embarrassing or made them feel awkward or uncomfortable.” The study, which will be presented in February 2014 at the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing in Baltimore, found that people concerned about social appropriateness and those with a diverse network of friends on Facebook are more likely to strongly experience a threat, whereas people with a high level of Facebook skills experience the same types of threats less severely. “Perhaps people with more Facebook experience, who know how to control settings, delete pictures and comments and untag, think they knew how to deal with these encounters or at least try to deal with them,” Birnholtz said. The types of violations or threats people in this study reported experiencing most often are: Norm violations: This is the most common type of threat study participants reported experiencing (45 percent) and involves situations when social norms are violated and one’s behavior is exposed in a way that could lead to social and emotional consequences. Ideal self-presentation violations: This is the second most common threat reported (29 percent) and involves ideal self-presentation violations, when content posted is inconsistent with the manner in which a person wants to appear to his or her Facebook audience. Association effects: These threats are a little less common (21 percent) and involve people worrying about their self-presentation because of how someone they associate with on Facebook is presenting himself. Aggregate effects: This is the least common threat (5 percent) and it occurs when an individual’s content gains higher visibility within his or her network as more people like it or comment on it. The unexpected attention can cause one to feel self-conscious about their self-presentation. “People can make bad decisions when posting to your Facebook because they don’t have a good idea of your privacy settings and which friends of yours might see this content,” Birnholtz said. “Facebook doesn’t provide a lot of cues as to how friends want to present themselves to their audience.” He said in the future Facebook could offer more pop-ups and nudges to help people think twice before posting a possible “threat” to a friend’s...

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Facebook: High Connection and Low Well-Being
Aug15

Facebook: High Connection and Low Well-Being

By The Editors Facebook may be big in helping people connect, but may not be that big in making people happy. Indeed, results from a study published in the scientific journal PLOSone indicate that Facebook use predicts decreases in a user’s well being. The study, entitled “Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults” (August 14, 2013), has been carried out by a group of investigators from the University of Michigan (U.S.) and the University of Leuven (Belgium). For the study, the researchers recruited 82 young adults, a core Facebook user demographic. All of them had smart phones and Facebook accounts. They used experience-sampling—one of the most reliable techniques for measuring how people think, feel, and behave moment-to-moment in their daily lives—to assess their subjective well-being by texting them at random times five times a day for two weeks. Each text message contained a link to an online survey with five questions: How do you feel right now? How worried are you right now? How lonely do you feel right now? How much have you used Facebook since the last time we asked? How much have you interacted with other people “directly” since the last time we asked? The study found that the more people used Facebook during one time period, the worse they subsequently felt. The authors also asked people to rate their level of life satisfaction at the start and end of the study. They found that the more participants used Facebook over the two-week study period, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time. Importantly, the researchers found no evidence that interacting directly with other people via phone or face-to-face negatively influenced well-being. Instead, they found that direct interactions with other people led people to feel better over time. They also found no evidence for two alternative possible explanations for the finding that Facebook undermines happiness. People were not more likely to use Facebook when they felt bad. In addition, although people were more likely to use Facebook when they were lonely, loneliness and Facebook use both independently predicted how happy participants subsequently felt. The authors, in the Concluding Comment of the article, state that “The human need for social connection is well established, as are the benefits that people derive from such connections. On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling such needs by allowing people to instantly connect. Rather than enhancing well-being, as frequent interactions with supportive “offline” social networks powerfully do, the current findings demonstrate that interacting with Facebook may predict the opposite result for young adults—it may undermine it.”...

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