In a study of 200,000 users of Weibo (China’s version of Twitter), researchers at Beihang University in China have concluded that “anger is more powerful than other emotions” when it comes to the spread of information online. Basically, anger is viral.
Researchers collected 70 million tweets from the 200,000 users over a period of six months in 2010 and, after isolating “highly connected” users, categorized each tweet into one of four emotions: joy, sadness, disgust, or anger. The results were a surprise to researchers: while sadness and disgust did not spread easily between users, there was a correlation between those who tweeted joyful messages. Anger, however, had a “surprisingly higher correlation than other emotions.”
What were the topics that consistently triggered the most anger? International conflicts and domestic social problems in China. Which, based on purely anecdotal and absolutely non-scientific studies of Twitter and Facebook in the United States over the last few weeks, seems about right. Syria, gun control, and twerking: rage abounds.