Good News Beats Bad on Social Networks

The New York Times:

BAD NEWS SELLS. If it bleeds, it leads. No news is good news, and good news is no news.

Those are the classic rules for the evening broadcasts and the morning papers, based partly on data (ratings and circulation) and partly on the gut instincts of producers and editors. Wars, earthquakes, plagues, floods, fires, sick children, murdered spouses — the more suffering and mayhem, the more coverage.

But now that information is being spread and monitored in different ways, researchers are discovering new rules. By scanning people’s brains and tracking their e-mails and online posts, neuroscientists and psychologists have found that good news can spread faster and farther than disasters and sob stories.

This social consciousness comes into play when people are sharing information about their favorite subject of all: themselves. This is intrinsically pleasurable and activates the brain regions associated with rewards like food, as demonstrated in a study by Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell of Harvard. In fact, the study showed, it’s so pleasurable that people will pass up monetary rewards for the chance to talk about themselves.

Past research into everyday conversation showed that a third of it is devoted to oneself, but today that topic has become an obsession thanks to social media. Rutgers researchers classify 80 percent of Twitter users as “meformers” who tweet mainly about themselves.

Read the whole story: The New York Times

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