No wonder all of those parody Hulk accounts have so many followers.
A new study from Beihang University in China indicates that anger is the most influential emotion on social media, suggesting that posts displaying anger are more likely to spread and go viral than those expressing any other emotion studied. Specifically, the researchers found that tweets expressing anger toward specific news events were far more likely to be retweeted than those that expressed other emotions:
"Through keywords and topics mining," they write in the conclusion of their paper, "in retweeted angry tweets, we ﬁnd [that] public opinion towards social problems and diplomatic issues are always angry and this extreme mental status also boosts the propagation of the information [in the social network]. ... We conjecture that anger plays a non-ignorable role in massive propagations of negative news about the society[.]"
First reported by MIT Technology Review, the researchers looked at about 70 million tweets from about 200,000 users on the hugely popular Chinese social network Weibo — an analog to Twitter in the United States — and categorized those Weibo tweets based on the sentiments shown: anger, joy, disgust and sadness. Of those 70 million tweets, 3.5 million were found to feature only one of those four sentiments. In the final analysis, anger beat out happiness as the emotion that spreads quickest in quick-twitch social networks like Weibo and Twitter.
Sadness and disgust, meanwhile, were found to be the weakest emotions in terms of social spread. You can read the full findings online here.
Now there are a few caveats here. First, the study dove into Weibo in particular, and not social networks in general, so it's not certain that the same findings apply to Twitter, Facebook and others. And second, the study centered on China, and scandals concerning the Chinese government. As Tech Review says, "it would be interesting to see whether the same effect can be observed in Western networks such as Twitter."
Though it has been found that both happiness and negative emotions tend to provoke reactions on social networks, it has not been shown which emotion is more provocative. Until that study is conducted and peer reviewed, we recommend — why not? — getting angry early and often on Twitter if you want to bring in the retweets. And, of course, for all the angriest tweets about technology news on the Internet, you can follow us on Twitter right here.