In an extensive study of 200,000 Weibo users, researchers at Beihang University have found that people suck, basically. ‘We find the correlation of anger among users is significantly higher than that of joy, which indicates that angry emotion could spread more quickly and broadly in the network.’
MIT Technology Review has more:
To ensure that they only studied people who were strongly connected, Rui and co only included people who had more than 30 interactions during the test period.
Next, they determined the sentiment of each tweet in their database by analysing the emoticons they contained. They divided these into four categories, expressing joy, sadness, anger or disgust.
Finally, they studied the way sentiments spread through the network. For example, if one person sent an angry tweet, how likely was it that a recipient would also send an angry message, and how likely was it that the recipient of this message would pass on the same sentiment and so on?
The results were something of a surprise. When it comes to sadness and disgust, Rui and co found very little correlation between users. Sadness and disgust do not easily spread through the network in this way. They found a higher correlation among users who tweeted joyful messages.
But the highest correlation by far was among angry users. Rui and co say anger strongly influences the neighbourhood in which it appears, spreading on average by about 3 hops or degrees. “Anger has a surprisingly higher correlation than other emotions,” they say.
On the most basic level, the research shows that if you want something to go viral on Weibo (and, we can surmise, Facebook or Twitter) then write something that pisses people off.
[Image credit: @tambako // Via: Gawker, Beijing Cream]