YouTube Videos Influence Your Mood More Than You Think
Social scientists have long known that moods and behaviors can be transmitted between people and among groups. Now, they know that kind of ‘contagion’ can happen in the virtual world as well.
A new study adds to a growing body of evidence hat emotional states can spread via online interaction.
“Our research is a reminder that the people we encounter online influence our everyday emotions – being exposed to happy (or angry) people can make us more happy (or angry) ourselves,” says lead author Hannes Rosenbusch of Tilburg University, the Netherlands. Rosenbusch is the lead author of the study.
Rosenbusch and colleagues analyzed emotions expressed in videos by YouTube vloggers with at least 10,000 followers, and compared the moods to the emotional language of the videos’ online comments. (It’s unclear if they took into account that roughly more than 40% of the Internet — and likely an even greater proportion of YouTube commenters — is bot, not human, traffic.) They found that when a vlogger posts a video expressing more positive emotions, the response of the audience was also more positive. They also found that audience members seek out emotions and moods similar to their own — forming a psychological echo chamber, as it were. This builds on similar findings from research focused on text-based social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
While not exactly profound, the new study does raise questions for mental health in a way previous research — and other social media — do not. The video medium is much more personal than text, a quality that has facilitated the rise of a popular class of vloggers devoted to publicly chronicling their mental health struggles. This group is widely acknowledged as helping challenge societal stigma around mental health issues and helping sufferers feel less alone. But if emotions are contagious even virtually, could some of these videos also not reinforce whatever negative feelings make life difficult for a particular viewer? Studies have also shown that negative moods and emotions can be contagious, just as positive ones. Combined with these new findings, it looks like more research is needed to fully explain all of the pros and cons of our online interactions so we can make them more healthy.