BOSTON (CBS) – You can say a lot of great things about the Internet. It’s a window to the world. Unfortunately it also brings out the dark side in a lot of people, as seen in a study of the Chinese social network Weibo, known as the Twitter of China.
Researchers looked at 70 million messages sent over six months and found rage was the most likely emotion to spread across social media.
Now of course we do not live in China. And the Chinese have their own unique societal problems but this study speaks to human nature and the way some of us act when no one knows our identity.
That’s why some web sites no longer accept anonymous comments. The Huffington Post just stopped taking them last month. Even the New York State Legislature is considering a ban on anonymous online comments because they can get so ugly.
I’ve had firsthand experience with this, having worked for a dot-com and having read some comments on this segment. It’s not unlike road rage. People do things they would never consider doing when face-to-face with someone.
But this study points out something more. It’s the way anger and rage spread online. One person says something nasty and it’s likely to be echoed by others.
But there are also many psychological studies that show happiness is a more contagious emotion.
Maybe we would see more of it if people weren’t hiding behind a screen name.
Follow Joe on Twitter @joemathieuwbz