News Travels Fast, Bad News Travels Faster

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets a chance to get its pants on.”

This quote by Winston Churchill is the opening line of an interesting article I found on MediaPost about the spread of good and bad news via social networks. As I continue brainstorming for my multi-modal project, I’ve been searching for articles such as these that act as evidence towards the idea of social networking being a major culprit in the unhappiness of adolescents today.

Erik Sass references in his article a study done by researchers at Beihang University titled, “Anger is More Influential Than Joy: Sentiment Correlation on Weibo.” 

The research team categorized around 70 million posts from 200,000 users on Weibo, a Twitter-like platform, according to sentiment, including anger, joy, sadness, and disgust. Their analysis showed that Weibo users who post angry sentiments are more likely to be connected to other Weibo users who post angry sentiments — making anger an “assortative” factor in the organization of online networks. The researchers also found that angry Weibo users are more likely to propagate angry sentiments via their networks (Sass).

This caused me to reflect upon my own experience. Days go by in which there is an eruption of statuses on my Facebook newsfeed regarding events of all kinds – the Red Sox come to mind – whether they be a great accomplishment, a horrible tragedy, or a controversial debate.

I am reminded of the tragic events that have occurred in the last two years. The Boston bombing, the horrific damage from Hurricane Sandy, or even the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. If these terrible events hadn’t been posted directly to my daily news outlet, would I have spent hours researching articles, photos, or videos to get more information about such tragedies? When something awful happens, the internet explodes with breaking news, photos, names, etc. Who is the information for and why? Are we informational masochists?

All of these aspects of a wide response to a world event bring me back to Erik’s article about what information gets spread around, and what impact it truly has on us.

Social network users might be more likely to pass along negative information because it might seem like a moral imperative. On the other hand, people always wonder why news stations seem to only show tragedy. Humans are naturally attracted to these horrific events, maybe to reinforce their own safety, or to satisfy an unexplainable curiosity.

These natural traits which are amplified by our minute-by-minute access to a social news report of our central discourse only solidify the theory that social networking develops a negative impact on its users.

This is quite arguable, however, since some might defend negative information is still information that should be shared. But I can’t help but wonder, is ignorance truly bliss?

Sass, Erik “Anger Spreads Faster than Happiness on Social Media” The Social Graf, MediaPost Publications: 2013. Accessed 11/3/13.

Photo from Creative Commons.

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