This Is Why People Go Crazy On Twitter

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SocialMedia_GabrielaAlfordIllustrated By Gabriela Alford.
In this day and age, few things match the excitement of a good ol' fashioned Twitter war. Something about the anonymity of the Internet, combined with the egotism that comes from having an audience that just might care about what you have to say, can lead to some seriously blown-out blow-ups. Call us crazy, but honestly, sometimes we just want to sit back with a bucket of popcorn and watch it all unfold.

So, what exactly gets us hot and bothered on the 'net? Researchers at China's BeiHang University looked at the usage of emoticons on China's Sina Weibo (which is China's answer to Twitter) in order to gauge the most viral emotions — that is, which emotions spread most quickly and broadly through the network. They found that, while joy moved faster than disgust or sadness, anger was by far the most viral. Anger, it turns out, is the emotion most likely to cause a chain reaction in which one user's upset spreads to others and builds in intensity over time. That explains the Twitter-battle thing.

And, perhaps unsurprisingly, Internet rage often has very little rational basis. A separate study conducted by researchers at Wharton looked at the virality (in this case, the amount of shares) of 7,000 New York Times articles. They found that, regardless of the actual tone or content of the story itself, users would be more likely to share something if it happened to make them angry, while articles that made readers sad got fewer shares. This is because anger is considered an "activating" emotion — that is, it fires people up enough to take action. So, now we know where all those rage-filled hashtags come from. (Smithsonian Magazine)