Maybe digital technology is a neutral medium, conveying all our thoughts and feelings equally well.
Or maybe, as tech hype tells us, our apps and gadgets skew positive, liberating us to do good and be better. But this paper suggests otherwise. According to its analysis millions of posts on Weibo (China’s answer to Twitter), there is one emotion that spreads much more widely and quickly across the social network than any other. And that emotion is anger.
The authors—Rui Fan, Jichang Zhao, Yan Chen and Ke Xu of Beihang University—crunched through 70 million tweets posted on on Weibo in 2010, mapping both interactions among users and four key emotions they were expressing. (They began by using emoticons that expressed sadness, joy, disgust and anger, then used those to train a software agent to spot the characteristic language of each emotion in other, non-emoticonned tweets.) With this analytic framework, they had a way to characterize the emotions expressed in any given tweet and to map how that tweet was replied to and retweeted. They could then look for correlations between the mood of a tweet and the extent to which it was spread in the social network. That’s one of their figures above, illustrating this post: A network of Weibo tweeters, all of whom has at least 30 interactions with each other. Each point is a tweeter, each line is an interaction between tweeters, and the colors indicate the dominant sentiment that the tweeter put forth in the time sampled. Red is anger, green is joy, blue is sadness and black marks disgust.
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