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Anger spreads faster than joy on China's social network

A study examining human emotion on Sina Weibo shows that angry posts are passed along at a far higher rate than those of joy, sadness, or disgust.

The nodes in these diagrams represent users, red stands for anger, green stands for joy, blue stands for sadness, and black represents disgust.
Beihang University, State Key Laboratory of Software Development Environment

When it comes to the Internet, are people more prone to jump on an angry bandwagon than a joyful one?

New data indicates this may be the case. A study (pdf) by researchers at China's Beihang University shows that people on China's Twitter-like microblogging site Sina Weibo are more likely to throw in their two cents or pass along posts that are angry in nature, while posts that are joyful, sad, or disgusted tend to stagnate.

"Connected by online social ties, different users influence each other emotionally," the study reads. "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."

Weibo has more than 500 million users; for comparison Twitter has around 200 million users. The study's researchers said that examining such a large group of people helps to understand detailed aspects of human emotion. For the study, roughly 70 million posts from 200,000 users were observed.

The study shows that a typical angry comment would likely spread to posts up to three degrees removed from the original post, while other emotions had far less reach.

Much can be gleaned about how humans react to different emotions from this study, but the researchers note it is swayed toward people who live in China. Additionally, the researchers say that many of the angry posts were about politics in China, so reactions could be different for users in other regions of the world.