weibo

Anger spreads faster and more broadly than joy, say computer scientists who have analysed sentiment on the Chinese Twitter-like service Weibo.

Rui Fan and fellow researchers at Beihang University in China have compared the way that tweets labelled with specific emotions influence other people on the network.

The results clearly show that anger is more influential than other emotions such as joy or sadness, a finding that could have significant implications for our understanding of the way information spreads through social networks.

Weibo is a Twitter-like service hugely popular in China. In just four years, it has attracted more than 500 million users who post around 100 million messages a day.

During six months in 2010, Rui and Co collected some 70 million tweets from 200,000 users and constructed a social network in which users are linked if they mutually interact by sending messages to each other or retweeting each other’s tweets.

Next, they determined the sentiment of each tweet in their database by analysing the emoticons they contained. They divided these into four categories, expressing joy, sadness, anger or disgust.

Finally, they studied the way sentiments spread through the network. For example, if one person sent an angry tweet, how likely was it that a recipient would also send an angry message, and how likely was it that the recipient of this message would pass on the same sentiment and so on?

The results were something of a surprise. When it comes to sadness and disgust, researchers found very little correlation between users. Sadness and disgust do not easily spread through the network in this way. They found a higher correlation among users who tweeted joyful messages.

But the highest correlation by far was among angry users. According to Rui and Co, two kinds of events seem to trigger angry messages.

The first are conflicts between China and foreign countries, such as the military activities of the US and South Korea in the Yellow Sea and a collision in September 2010 between a Chinese and Japanese ship.

The second are domestic social problems like food security, government bribery and the demolition of homes for resettlement; all hot topics in China.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1309.2402: Anger is More Influential Than Joy: Sentiment Correlation in Weibo

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