Viral Vitriol

Sep 18 2013 @ 4:00pm

Derek Mead flags a study of 200,000 users of Weibo - China’s Twitter-like social network - to gauge which emotions are most “shareable” via emoticons:

Joy is still a viral emotion, while sadness and disgust are much less so. But anger wins out. As Technology Review points out, a lot of this anger was found to be in relation to politics, both international and domestic. That’s not surprising, as political problems tend to be popular as well as incite anger and frustration. … I’d also venture to guess that sadness and disgust simply don’t translate as well. People want to share things they’re either passionate about or that they feel smart about sharing, and sad or disgusting things are harder emotions to fit into either of those categories. I guess the retweet barrier for “This guy is a shithead” is much lower than for “Life sux,” perhaps because sadness and disgust don’t jive with our carefully-manicured online images.

What triggers such anger the most?

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. “This can explain why the events related to social problems propagate extremely fast in Weibo,” say Rui and co.