Facebook recently made headlines in light of a controversial investigation of its News Feed’s effects on users’ psychological health. According to Newsweek, the study manipulated the News Feeds of 700,000 Facebook users, separating them into two groups. “One [group] was subjected to a newsfeed of primarily positive posts; the other was flooded with emotionally negative items.”
The purpose, according to Facebook, was to examine the legitimacy and scale of what researchers call “emotional contagions.” In other words: How are users affected by the positive or negative feelings expressed among their peers?
The study, now published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, concluded that “the emotions expressed by friends, via online social networks, influence our own moods, constituting, to our knowledge, the first experimental evidence for massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks.”
Your emotional state is indeed influenced by the shared emotional states of others. And while the controversial Facebook study was the first of its scale to investigate the phenomenon via social media, many other reports on mood contagion — on social media and elsewhere — have been published in the past.