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More likely to be shared: good news or the bad news?

More likely to be shared: good news or the bad news?

The New York Times analyses whether bad news or good news is more likely to spread on social media:

“The ‘if it bleeds’ rule works for mass media that just want you to tune in,” says Jonah Berger, a social psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. “They want your eyeballs and don’t care how you’re feeling. But when you share a story with your friends and peers, you care a lot more how they react. You don’t want them to think of you as a Debbie Downer.” Researchers analyzing word-of-mouth communication — e-mails, Web posts and reviews, face-to-face conversations — found that it tended to be more positive than negative, but that didn’t necessarily mean people preferred positive news. Was positive news shared more often simply because people experienced more good things than bad things?

The best predictors of buzz were elsewhere, in the brain regions associated with social cognition — thoughts about other people. If those regions lighted up when something was heard, people were more likely to talk about the idea enthusiastically, and the idea would keep spreading.

But does all this positivity actually make the audience feel any better? Not necessarily. A study in Utah showed that the longer people spend on Facebook, the more they think that life is unfair and that they’re less happy than their “friends.”

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