Facebook Anger Wins Over Love? A Social Experiment to Prove Wrong

Facebook Anger wins over love?
You have heard it said that Love is the most powerful force in the universe, right?  Love conquers all, they say.  So what is our reaction when we hear about studies, such as one that just took place in China, where anger was measured as the most influential emotion moving traffic on social networks?  It wasn’t Facebook, it was a site similar to Twitter – but are we surprised?  Accepting?  In disbelief?  Judging by the way the world is unraveling today, we may think that love is the most powerful force in the universe, or fantasize that this is the case, but we certainly aren’t acting that way.  What? Do we believe love ought to come in and over-take us, forcing us be kind to one another just because it can?  Personally, I know we can do better than this.  Spreading the word through social networks such as Facebook using anger instead of love? A social experiment to prove wrong if there ever was one.  Who’s in?

In China, at the Beihang University, Rui Fan and friends took it upon themselves to discover what the most influential emotion in social media today is.  Information was derived from a Twitter-like network which had over 500 million users posting somewhere in the ballpark of 100 messages per day.  Basically, a lot of data to work with.

To make their stats as accurate as possible, and to be sure those they monitored were strongly connected, they counted only those who had repeated interactions of at least 30 back and forth messages during the test period.  The number of subjects they ended up following in this way was 200,000, generating around 70 million tweets over a 6 month period.

Now, I don’t know if China is unlike the rest of the world, but I do know that we are all a part of the human race.  When categorized into one of four categories of joy, anger, disgust and sadness, the last two barely registered- but joy and anger seemed to dominate the emotional expression meter.  Joy was high, but significantly higher was anger – “anger strongly influences the neighborhood in which it appears, spreading on average by about 3 hops or degrees. ‘Anger has a surprisingly higher correlation than other emotions‘” the study reported.  I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit disturbed by this.

Anger wins over love?  Is this the way we are choosing to live and socialize on the amazing tool we have invented allowing us to connect with other humans across the globe?  Maybe the results would vary a bit in the US or Europe, but something tells me the numbers may be similar.  What are we going to do about it?  This is a social experiment to prove wrong if I’ve ever heard of one, don’t you agree?  Can we get a little cheer for hope in the human race?  Can we monitor the way we communicate and respond to one another so that love, more than anger, is the dominating emotion on the web?

According to the findings in Rui Fan’s study, in order to spread the word faster on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, you need to conjure up some rage.  When someone is on fire with anger, they apparently ‘share’ more.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pintrest, wherever you are posting, should anger win over love?  A social experiment to prove wrong in my opinion – let’s start today by spreading the love, not the anger.  Forget the fear and outrage and let your human heart show.  I promise I’ll share the good news if you will.


Written by: Stasia Bliss

Technology Review;Cornell University Library

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