Emotions, Facebook, and Students

The most shared scientific paper of 2014 was a massive study using Facebook.  I do not have Facebook so reviewing the research was both alarming and educational.  (I’m often asked how I find the time to read so much- I don’t spend time on Facebook)

The study looked at emotional contagions.  An emotional contagion is a vector that transports an emotion from one individual to another.  When you are around a person that is happy, you become happy.

The connection between online networks and emotional contagions has recently received attention.  This study is a step in that direction.

The newsfeed on your Facebook page shows SELECTED updates from your buddies.  Facebook uses an algorithm to decide what to show on your newsfeed.  In other words, you do not see everything that gets posted on your friends pages.  The algorithm is designed to show you the most relevant updates from your buddies.

In this study, the algorithm was manipulated.  Rather then show the most relevant information, the algorithm showed one group of users only posts that lacked positive comments and another that lacked negative comments.  Said differently: one group only read negative updates and the other only positive updates on their newsfeed.

The question was simple.  Do negative newsfeed comments effect the readers subsequent posts? Do positive newsfeed comments effect the readers subsequent posts?

The negative newsfeed group responded by using negative comments in their updates and posts.  The positive news feed group responded by using positive comments in their updates and posts.  The people that read negative comments were in a sour mood after reading their newsfeed.  The people that read positive comments were in a happy mood after reading their newsfeed.

The Pragmatic TV Teacher advocates the use of emotion in lessons.  But this study strikes me as different.  After digesting the information, here are five take-aways.

1.  Limit the amount of personal information you share with your students.  Your students don’t want to hear about your ex wife.  Stick with positive one-liners.  “I’m happy today because my daughter has a music concert tonight”.

2.  Emotions are more contagious then we thought.  A smile is a fantastic way to greet your students.  A frown or scowl is damaging.

3.  Be happy, no matter what :) Students don’t like teachers that are perpetually angry because 80 minutes around them puts them (the student) in a bad mood.

4.  Maybe the cheesy positive posters around our classrooms really do work!

5.  Ditch Facebook and read a book from one of our lists!  Were you one of the people in the negative newsfeed group?  You’ll never know…  

Thanks for reading.

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