Positivity breeds positivity

Psychologists have long been aware that positivity breeds positivity in others. We also know that praise and reward has a greater impact on good behaviour than punishment has on stopping bad behaviour. It’s therefore no surprise that both of these psychological rules also apply in the online world.

Researchers at the University of California in San Diego have discovered that when people create a negative social media post, it has a negative impact on others who read it.

Rain, rain go away

Taking data from millions of Facebook users, the researchers also found that rainfall directly influences the emotional content of people’s status messages, in turn affecting friends status’ and moods in other cities who are not experiencing rainfall.

The positive outweighs the negative

They also found that “positive messages appear to be more contagious than negative” and that “positive and negative emotional expressions tend to have an inhibitory effect on one another. Each additional positive post decreases the number of friends’ negative posts. Each additional negative post decreases the number of friends’ positive posts. Again, positive messages appear to have a stronger effect”.

The ripple effect

The researchers suggest that social networks could create clusters of happy and unhappy individuals. As a result of greater social media penetration globally, the researchers say that ‘‘we may see greater spikes in global emotion that could generate increased volatility in everything from political systems to financial markets.” The implications of this mean that positive interactions online are very important for creating a spread of positive emotions. Promoting happiness in one person online may promote happiness in several others. A ripple effect.

How can we help spread happiness online?

Firstly we need to look at what makes people happy. An article in the Huffington Post by Belle Beth Cooper sums up some fascinating solutions to happiness. Belle cites Dan Gilbert, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and an expert in happiness research, who says: “We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends”.

A British study found that an increase in strength of social relationships is worth up to £85,000 pounds and that changes in an individual’s income doesn’t actually buy happiness. So the Beatles were right, money can’t buy you love.

Before your next post, take some of Belle’s advice. Exercise more, sleep well, help others and post positive stuff. You might just make other people happy in the process!