Detecting emotional contagion in massive social networks

PLoS One. 2014 Mar 12;9(3):e90315. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0090315. eCollection 2014.


Happiness and other emotions spread between people in direct contact, but it is unclear whether massive online social networks also contribute to this spread. Here, we elaborate a novel method for measuring the contagion of emotional expression. With data from millions of Facebook users, we show that rainfall directly influences the emotional content of their status messages, and it also affects the status messages of friends in other cities who are not experiencing rainfall. For every one person affected directly, rainfall alters the emotional expression of about one to two other people, suggesting that online social networks may magnify the intensity of global emotional synchrony.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Emotions*
  • Happiness
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Social Networking*

Grants and funding

This work was partially supported by Army Research Office Grant W911NF-11-1-0363, and a grant from the James S. McDonnell Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.