You log on to Facebook, check the status of your 500 plus “friends” and post a few comments. You notice that several of your friends are feeling down this post holiday season and are talking about feeling lonely and depressed. After reading their posts, you feel down too.
What just happened?
Can negative and positive feelings be contagious?
YES, according to University of Chicago researcher, John Cacioppo, and his colleagues. If you have a social connection with someone who is lonely, you have a 52% chance of feeling lonely too. If the connection is a little more removed, a friend of a friend, the percentage drops to 25%. And if the “friend” is a distant contact, you are only 15% at risk for loneliness.
The same is true for other emotions. Angry people (not birds) can infect you with anger! Emotions can be contagious on social media sites.
So if someone is always down and negative, you might want to defriend him or her. It may improve your mood and prevent you from getting Facebook Depression. Pick the happier people; but not the way too happy people. Because the way to happy people can make you feel lonely too because their lives appear to be better than yours. We tend to compare, come up short and feel depressed.
In terms of your children, the old adage, “Choose your friends wisely,” definitely applies here. Bad behavior from kids your’ve never met can influence your child’s emotions. So take a look at your child’s friends. Are they ramping up anger and hate or love and respect?
Bottom line, we can be highly connected and still be vulnerable to loneliness or other negative emotions. Virtual relationships are not a substitution for face-to-face relationships. You can be highly connected but still lonely–500 plus friends are not the same as 2 to 3 real life friends. So put down the technology and go meet someone face to face!