We all knew social media was affecting us in some way, shape, or form, but did you realize that the posts that show up on your Facebook News Feed actually affect your emotions?
A recent study conducted by Adam Kramer, Jamie Guillory, and Jeffrey Hancock validated this!
In the study, called Experimental Evidence of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks, the researchers tweaked the news feeds of almost 700,000 users so that they saw either more positive or more negative posts from their friends. This took place for one week in January and was the data was then sent through a statistical calculation process (I’ll save you the details) to determine if the Facebook News Feed posts truly did have an impact on emotions.
After sifting through the results, the researchers discovered that when fewer positive words and posts were displayed on someone’s news feed, they were less likely to write positive words themselves.
In fact, users showed an increase in negative words when this happened. The same happened with the other way: when fewer negative words existed, negative posts decreased and positive posts increased.
Understanding the Details
If you read the entire study, you may get caught up in a bunch of the facts and figures that are presented. This is typical psychology protocol when submitting a study to be peer-reviewed, so don’t get confused. The main point that you should take away from this psychological research study is that Facebook News Feed posts do have an impact on our emotions, at least in some way.
Was it Ethical?
Typically when a research study is being conducted, participants are told that they will be participating. At this time, they have the choice to decide whether they would like to continue with the experiment or withdraw. There are instances when the participant does not know beforehand, but the researcher must do their best to debrief each individual so that they understand why they were not initially told and what the purpose of the study was.
In this study, there is no specific mention of whether participants were given an informed consent or if they voluntarily participated in the research experiment. Instead, the researchers simply state that they manipulated the News Feeds of hundreds of thousands of users by controlling the amount of emotional posts they saw, whether positive or negative.
It’s fair to say that there could be some controversy surrounding this study because you don’t know if you were among one of the users who had a manipulated feed, as well as the fact that now you have no idea what else Facebook is more capable of.
As great as social media is, we have to realize that we are letting a lot of our privacy go out the window every time we choose to participate in any web activity.
I’m not sure of all the guidelines that the researchers went through to get the study approved, but proposals are typically require to go through an institutional review board (IRB) before the experiment itself is conducted.
With that being said, this study was most likely given the green light because the review board felt that no true harm was being done to participants and the results would be beneficial to the field of psychology, as well as society itself.
Monitor Your Facebook News Feed
Now that you know that other people’s posts can affect your own emotions, do you think that you are friends with the right people on Facebook? Do you find that most of the people you are connected with have a negative attitude that comes out in every post? If so, it may be time to consider whether you want to shut off as many notifications from them as possible, or unfriend them altogether.
If you are looking to change your notifications, you have a few options:
- You may want to change who you have as a close friend on Facebook. You can still be friends with a person without having them labeled as close friend. This just means that you won’t receive all of their notifications
- You can also change your news feed settings. No worries if you only have the Facebook app on your phone – you can do it from there as well! If you are using the iOS app, click on “More” and then scroll down to where it says “Manage News Feed.” From here, you can easily unfollow anyone on your friends list, as well as pages and groups you are a part of.
How Negativity Ruins Your Day
Now that there is at least one study that has examined how Facebook News Feed posts affect your emotions, it’s time to talk about all the negativity that we see from other people every day.
The more friends you have, the more chances you have of being exposed to at least a few negative posts each day. A few here and there is no problem, but it becomes an issue when you are constantly seeing them every time you log in to check out what is going on with your friends.
By the time you read through all these negative posts, you may feel a little deflated and you may start to think of your own problems as well.
If someone starts talking about how bad their day was because they got into a car accident, your mind may start to wander toward the rush hour traffic you will face on the way home from work. If another friend is posting about how dumb their job is, you may begin to focus on the negative aspects of your job as well. The more negative thoughts we hear, the more our mind has to fight to keep the bad thoughts away.
The Social Media Cycle
I expect more and more research to continue to surface about social media and how it affects the way we think, feel, act, and live life. Even as this information becomes available to the general public to read over, the reality is that our society is stuck in a social media cycle, meaning that it is a big part of our lives now and we choose to live with it, even if that means our emotions suffer because of it. Social media makes us feel connected in ways we never have before, but that could be both a good and bad thing.
My words of wisdom to you:
- If you see a lot of negative posts in your Facebook News Feed, get off the site for a while
- Make a pledge to yourself that you will leave private matters where they need to be – in private
- Be an encouragement to others and post a positive statement about something every once in awhile
- Know your limits – if you are one of those people who naturally wants to help others, go ahead and provide support, but make sure you are aware of when negativity is getting to you