It’s not just a tweet that goes viral on the internet – the inherent emotion also spreads along with a tweet, a new study says.
Simply put, positive tweets inspire users who read them to tweet more positively, and negative tweets beget more negative tweets, a new study from Indiana University has found.
"Whenever you share something online that content doesn’t affect only you. In principle, it impacts everybody listening," professor Emilio Ferrara from Indiana University, who led the study, was quoted as saying.
Using Twitter’s API, researchers pulled a random sample of 3,800 English-speaking Twitter users, then observed and analysed how they appeared to respond to tweets that showed up in their stream, Fusion.net reported.
Using an algorithm that ranked how positive or negative the content of a tweet was, researchers found that on average those who tweeted negatively had been exposed to about 4.34 percent more negative tweets and those who tweeted positively had seen about 4.5 percent more positive content.
Ferrara’s study found that about 20 percent of Twitter users were particularly susceptible to the power of Twitter’s emotional influence, with more than half of their tweets showing evidence of "contagion".
The study found that positive tweets were much more contagious than negative ones.
"Of course, it’s very difficult to understand whether a user’s tweet reflects their emotional status overall," Ferrara said.
So, what’s the point of scientifically proving that a sad tweet might inspire you to tweet something sad. One scenario, Ferrara said is helping marketers more effectively reach social media users with their message. The findings might also influence other kinds of messaging, for instance, how governments communicate during large-scale disasters.
"Perhaps knowing what kind of information comes across positively could help to disseminate emergency information effectively and quell panic," Ferrara said.
The study is scheduled to appear in the journal PLOS ONE.