Social Media Spreads Rage But Kindness Can Stop It In Its Tracks : Shots – Health News : NPR

Ariel Davis for NPR

Even if you’re not aware of it, it’s likely that your emotions will influence someone around you today.

This can happen during our most basic exchanges, say on your commute to work. “If someone smiles at you, you smile back at them,” says sociologist Nicholas Christakis of Yale University. “That’s a very fleeting contagion of emotion from one person to another.”

But it doesn’t stop there. Emotions can spread through social networks almost like the flu or a cold. And, the extent to which emotions can cascade is eye-opening.

For instance, Christakis’ research has shown that if you start to become happier with your life, a friend living close by has a 25 percent higher chance of becoming happy too. And your partner is more likely to feel better as well. The happiness can even spread to people to whom you’re indirectly connected.

To document this, Christakis and his colleagues mapped out the face-to-face interactions of about 5,000 people living in one town, over the course of 32 years. Their emotional ups and downs were documented with periodic surveys. “We were able to show that as one person became happy or sad, it rippled through the network,” Christakis says.

It’s not just happiness that spreads, unhappiness and anger can be contagious, too.

And you don’t have to be in the same house or city to catch someone else’s emotions. There’s evidence that emotional contagion can spread through our digital interactions, too.

Say, you’re in a negative mood, and you text your partner. A research study, dubbed, “I’m Sad, You’re Sad,” documented that in these types of text exchanges, your partner is likely to both sense your emotion and mirror it.

So, just how far does this go? A study of nearly 700,000 Facebook users suggests we can pick up on — and mirror — the emotions we encounter in our social media feeds, too.

As part of the study, users’ news feeds were altered. Some people in the study began to see more positive posts, while others began to see more negative posts.

“We found that when good things were happening in your news feed — to your friends and your family — you also tended to write more positively and less negatively,” says Jeff Hancock, a communications researcher at Stanford University and author the two studies on digital interactions

And, the reverse was true, too. Viewing more negative posts prompted people to write more more sad or angry things. Overall, the effects were very small, compared to what has been documented in face-to-face interactions, “but [the study] suggested that emotions can move through networks through contagion,” Hancock says.

A lot of us have seen this play out on our social media feeds, especially on Twitter. Late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel pokes fun at angry tweets by asking celebrities and famous athletes to read aloud the mean things that have been tweeted about them. “Draymond Green’s jump shot is almost as ugly as his face,” NBA player Draymond Green read to an audience last June. “Whoa!” the audience responded.

It’s funny in the moment. But when you’re on the receiving end of a personal attack, it’s hurtful. And it increases the likelihood that you’ll lash out in return.

One study finds there may be a little bit of troll in each of us. If you read a nasty message from a troll that dishes out sarcasm or a personal attack, and you happen to be in a bad mood, the research shows you’re more likely to copy the troll-like behavior.

Bottom line: It’s easier to be mean from behind a screen. The rules of face-to-face interactions don’t exist. “There are fewer cues,” Hancock says. You don’t see or hear the person on the receiving end of your tweet or post. “That makes it a little harder to view you as a person,” he says.

This is what happened to a Twitter user named Michael Beatty who lives in Alabama. He’s 65 and served in the military during the Vietnam War. Earlier this year, he got ticked off when he read a tweet written by comedian and actor Patton Oswalt. It was a negative tweet about President Trump.

“So I did a knee jerk reaction,” Beatty told us. ” I sent him two tweets back.”

Beatty says he told Oswalt: “I enjoyed seeing your character in [the movie] Blade: Trinity die so horribly.” In another tweet he poked fun at the actor’s height.

Looking back, Beatty says, “it was harsh, uncalled for, embarrassing.”

Patton. You have humbled me to the point where I can barely compose my words. You have caused me to take pause and reflect on how harmful words from my mouth could result in such an outpouring. Thank you for this and I will pass this on to my cousin who needs help. A cascade. pic.twitter.com/6Is7KflPeY

— Michael Beatty (@MichaelBeatty)

And Patton Oswalt’s response? The actor scrolled through Beatty’s feed and learned that he had some serious health issues. After a long hospital stay, he had medical bills piling up.

Next thing Beatty knew, Oswalt had donated $2,000 to Beatty’s GoFundMe account, and encouraged his millions of followers to follow his lead. “”This dude just attacked me on Twitter and I joked back but then I looked at his timeline and he’s in a lot of trouble health-wise,” Oswalt tweeted. “I’d be pissed off too. He’s been dealt some s***** cards — let’s deal him some good ones.”

Beatty began to hear from Patton Oswalt’s followers. Some donated money, others sent encouraging messages. His GoFundMe account grew to about $50,000.

Patton Oswalt’s generosity spread. “It had a large cascade effect,” Beatty says. “I honestly, truly thought I was dreaming and this couldn’t happen in real life.”

One act of kindness led to the next.

“I realized that knee jerk reactions to things [are] not the way to go,” Beatty says. It led him to slow down and reflect. “What kind of person have I been?,” he asked himself.

I want to thank everyone who came to my aid with generous outpourings- and also to @pattonoswalt without whom I would not be the recipient of so much love and support. I’m not a man who ever cries but I had to wait to send this. And to quote Stuart on Big Bang “meat tonight”! pic.twitter.com/r4Kc9zYk7E

— Michael Beatty (@MichaelBeatty)

He says when he wrote those angry tweets, he was in a bad place, angry at himself for letting his health deteriorate: “It was easy to snap back and snarl.”

But Beatty says the empathy shown towards him, changed him. He’s begun to think: “People are good.” He realizes that politics divides people, but one-on-one, “people are caring, generous, helpful.”

Over the last month, he says he’s felt his anger fade away. This manifests in lots of small ways. For instance he used to have serious road rage. But now “if someone wants to get over, I’ll wave them in,” Beatty says. “I have changed.”

This story reminds us of what we should already know (and hopefully remember from watching Mr. Rogers): “It’s good for us to be kind,” Jeff Hancock says.

Not only is it good for the world around us, it makes us feel a lot better and disarms anger.

“There’s lots of scientific evidence that when you are kind or express gratitude you get all kinds of psychological benefits,” says Hancock.

So, next time, you’re tempted to respond to an angry post, maybe you’ll remember this story.

Anger leads to more anger. But a single act of kindness can help stop the spread.

This content was originally published here.

Related posts

Trump’s 2020 attack strategy: Smear Biden over mental fitness By Eric Bradner, Ryan Nobles and Dan Merica, CNN President Donald Trump and his allies have zeroed-in on an attack against Joe Biden, going after the presumptive Democratic governmental nominee’s mental physical fitness in a coordinated effort using smears and innuendo to paint him as ill-quipped to be President of the United States. Trump for months has questioned the mental skill of the opponent he calls “Drowsy Joe.” Trump last week described Biden as “a sleepy person in a basement of a home,” and he has actually repeatedly recommended that Biden did not personally write declarations issued by his project criticizing Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. His project and the Republican National Committee have progressively focused its attacks on Biden’s tendency for on-camera verbal stumbles in recent weeks, as it looks for to define Biden after he emerged triumphant from the Democratic primary. One example came previously this month, when Trump’s campaign launched an ad comparing Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, which closed with the line: “At least Bernie remembers his positions.” https://twitter.com/parscale/status/1247928262036258816 The attacks are an early demonstration of how Trump will utilize the full Republican politician Celebration apparatus to run a scorched-earth campaign based upon personal insults and unwarranted insinuations– a heightened variation of his playbook from 2016, when Trump and his allies, without proof, called into question Hillary Clinton’s health. They have actually become a daily occurrence from Trump’s campaign, assistants and Republican allies throughout every medium possible– on social media, in campaign e-mail blasts and videos and on Trump-aligned media companies like Fox News. Biden’s advisers and Democratic allies mention that Trump is guilty of many of the same verbal tics he is attacking Biden over, and often lies and embraces conspiracy theories. As one Biden ally put it: “Has Trump taken his own guidance and downed a gallon of bleach yet?” The attacks weaponize Biden’s propensity to stumble over words, utilize the wrong word or interrupt himself in the middle of long answers by stating, “anyhow,” and altering course. To fans of a former vice president who in December 2018 called himself a “gaffe maker,” those long-time spoken tics have always belonged to Biden’s public persona. They are made more forgivable to his advocates by Biden’s openness about conquering a stutter. Aside from periodic jousts amongst assistants on Twitter, Biden’s project has mostly neglected the Trump project’s attacks. Biden-world’s view is that the political and media landscape has actually shifted because 2016, when every Trump attack on a rival was treated as novel and took command of the project narrative on social media and cable news. His consultants pointed to Trump’s stopped working efforts to guide the political discussion in the 2017 Virginia governor’s race, when he and his GOP allies cautioned of the MS-13 gang, in addition to the 2018 midterms, when Trump’s message concentrated on caravans of refugees approaching the US-Mexico border. ” The misapprehension that whatever Trump wishes to speak about is inherently efficient and that he gets to act as the media’s at-large task editor has actually been closed,” a Biden consultant said. As Biden has adapted to marketing in the age of coronavirus– knocked off the campaign path and rather transmitting occasions and interviews from a transformed rec room in his basement in Delaware– Trump’s project is seizing on every on-camera miscue, with conservative Trump allies such as Fox News host Sean Hannity then magnifying them. ” His sharpness, or absence thereof is on screen every day, every time he talks,” Trump project spokesperson Tim Murtaugh informed CNN in response to concerns about the technique. “His failure to keep a train of thought going is obvious.” Biden frequently looks down at his notes, which Trump’s allies have actually mischaracterized as Biden dropping off to sleep. Trump’s boy Eric Trump tweeted a seven-second video from Biden’s online broadcast with Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, along with the hashtag “#SleepyJoe.”. https://twitter.com/EricTrump/status/1255213748811374596. Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign supervisor, said Trump “always projects his biggest weakens on his challenger in an attempt to deflect criticism from himself.”. ” What is very clear is the White Home thinks his presidency will be evaluated on how properly he is managing coronavirus, so it makes ideal sense that he is now attempting to accuse his challenger of incompetence, which is ridiculous.”. The attacks resemble how Trump’s campaign pursued Clinton in 2016, Mook noted. Trump and his campaign frequently cast the former secretary of state as sick or unhealthy, a technique that was further elevated after Clinton stumbled after a September 11 occasion in New York due to concealed pneumonia. ” I simply see a pattern regularly from 2016 all the way through now, which is, he attempts to predict his most significant issues onto his opponents so he gives the media a false equivalence to attempt to muddy the water,” Mook stated. “Part of the factor he was so obsessed with calling Hillary Clinton dishonest is because he is probably the most deceitful individual to win the White Home.”. Biden advisers argue that Trump’s efforts to caricature Biden won’t overcome the same qualities that insulated him in the Democratic primary: After 5 decades in the public eye and eight years as President Barack Obama’s No. 2, voters feel like they know him. Biden frequently expresses distaste for attacks on his rivals’ character. His aides say that by questioning Biden’s mental capability, the President is guiding the project toward concerns of character and fitness. ” This is asinine to tee up– since it’s 10,000 times even worse for him,” a Biden adviser stated. As an example of how easily Trump could be parodied, Biden’s assistants indicated a video from The Daily Show in which Fox News hosts and analysts’ comments about Biden’s mental skill were interspersed with videos of Trump’s own verbal flubs. Biden spokesman Andrew Bates tweeted The Daily Program’s video, which has been seen 3.6 million times on Twitter, on March 25, in action to Trump spokesperson Matt Wolking tweeting: “When is the last time Joe Biden was lucid?”. https://twitter.com/AndrewBatesNC/status/1242886701002960896. ” Triggering voters to assess prospects’ mental states is a devastating proposal for Donald Trump, so we’re never going to prevent him from going there,” Bates said. – CNNPolitics.

Authentication failed. No user with this email address found. This content was originally published here.

Posted