Social Network and Emotion Contagion

In this week’s lecture, we focused on the analysis aspect of “Online Social Networks.”
We looked at the different ways in which we could carry out analysis, such as closeness centrality and betweenness centrality, in order to look for who is the most influential or powerful within a particular network. A question was raised in class about the purpose of these type of analysis. For example, how it can be used in context and why would they use it. In my opinion, social network analysis can be used by businesses to better market their products and services by knowing exactly the profiles of their target consumers and thus manipulate their interests into the company and influence purchasing patterns.

Firstly, a research at the University of California used software to investigate the emotional content of one billion Facebook posts over two years. They came up with a particular formula to calculate for one person’s emotional expression. They found that there may be a large-scale spillover in online networks in that what people feel and say in one place could spread very quickly to many parts of the globe and could the spread of emotion could be on the very same day. This means that the emotional contagion power is very strong. I personally agree with this because we learnt that networks can connect people to people quickly.

In this discussion, do you guys think that there is actually a relationship between your emotions and the items that you post on Facebook? Do you agree with the authors of this research that the spillover effect of online networks are so large in that someone living across the globe could indirectly get emotionally affected by your Facebook posts? Would this be over exaggerating?

In addition to the topic of emotion contagion, there had been a current issue within Facebook’s news feed experiment to control people’s emotions. Facebook carried out a secret study involving 689,000 users in which friends’ postings were moved to influence moods. The study concluded that the “emotions expressed by friends, via online social networks, influence our own moods, constituting, to our knowledge, the first experimental evidence for massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks” (Booth, 2014). Simply, Facebook’s experiment reviewed that they could successfully affect the emotions of their users by manipulating the type of posts they can see on Facebook.

This video summarizes the experiment. I think this experiment is unethical as it is affecting the feelings of people which could lead to bad consequences. With this case, I would like to ask whether you guys believe that Facebook is allowed to manipulate your emotions? Was this experiment ethical? And are you surprised with the outcome of Facebook’s experiment? Can you come up with some creative ideas on how you could test the emotional contagion effect on other social networking sites like Twitter?



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