It’s been said of recent generations that we are raising angry children. Everything in the world has been blamed for it that I can think of. Have we become angrier as a society? The answer seems to be yes. There are so many factors and so many things that can help, let’s take a look at some.Emotions are nothing more than energy that we are sending off from our bodies. Depending on the strength of that energy, it is able to have an effect on our own energy. For example, when someone smiles at you first thing in the morning when you’re walking into work. The energy that is exchanged is healthy and makes you feel good. However, quite the opposite happens when someone yells at you the first thing when you get to work. Such an exchange could leave you with a sour taste in your mouth for the rest of the day even.
According to sociologist Nicholas Christakis of Yale University, “If someone smiles at you, you smile back at them, 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. Another aspect of anger is what we pay attention to on social media. Let’s take Facebook for example; when a person sees a hateful post from one of their friends, they are more likely to respond with negativity. Here again, it spreads through the community like a ripple. 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 interactionsThe study showed that the opposite happened too. The more negativity in your newsfeed, the more likely you are to write and post negative things on your Facebook too. The trend continues with either kind of energy you put out there. All of this negative influence on your energy will and does make you angry. The obvious question is, how do we turn this around? For our own benefit, we can start to break this chain by putting out positive posts, tweets, pictures and whatever else is being put on social media. Watch for the ripple that you can start yourself. Watch for a change in tone from your friends and especially notice if you feel happier. Scroll by the hateful and stop on the beautiful words that are out there to be read. Be happy. Make other’s happy. Dwell in love and let the rest slip right by you.