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By Karen Nikos-Rose on December 20, 2018

We all know that those angry rants on social media can come back to hurt you—and sooner than you think. “Good,” positive chat resonates for a few seconds, generally, but negative chat, even in a chat room where exchanges happen more immediately than on Facebook or Twitter, persists for many minutes, new UC Davis research suggests.

Cognitive scientist Seth Frey used millions of chat room messages to study how positive and negative messages reflected back to their senders.

“It’s not just that this negative chat has a long life,” said Frey, an assistant professor of Communication at UC Davis who is the lead author of the study. “But it has a longer effect on the original speaker. Negative people are really hurting themselves.”

The findings were published in Behavior Research Methods in October.

How actions can have consequences

Positive and negative statements were measured with a sentiment analysis toolkit typically used for short Twitter posts.

The findings show, Frey said, that emotions ripple online in ways that we can’t always measure in in-person, one-on-one conversations. “It’s really about isolating the effects that your angry and distasteful actions have on you in the future.”

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