Next time you’re feeling down and feel compelled to share your mood on Facebook, spare a thought for your online friends.
According to a survey conducted by a group of scientists in the US, your mood on social networks can be contagious and spreads to those you are connected to.
Researchers in the US analysed over a billion updates from approximately a million Facebook users and found that negative posts had a domino effect, causing similarly downbeat posts from others.
But the effect was not confined to negative emotions. When people posted happy messages on the site, these spread too, and proved even more contagious than the less cheerful ones.
The researchers used a computer program to analyse the emotional content of anonymous English status updates on Facebook from January 2009 to March 2012. The scientists had no information on the names of the people, or even the content of their messages.
To test if emotions might spread from one person to another, the scientists looked at how updates changed when it rained.
Rain has a reliable impact on the tone of Facebook posts, with negative ones rising by 1.16% and positive ones falling by 1.19%.
The study looked at the posts of people who were friends with someone who lived in a city that was being rained on, but were crucially not in a city hit by rain themselves.
According to the survey, every downbeat post triggered an extra 1.29 more negative posts than normal among people’s friends. Every happy post led to an extra 1.75 positive posts among friends. Details of the study are published in the online scientific journal Plos One.