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Rants on social media never really go away, new study finds

Negative messages have a way of lingering far longer than positive ones

Photo (c) filistimlyanin - Getty Images
As social media continues to dominate the technological landscape, there has been no shortage of news coverage on users’ controversial posts. Social media has become an indelible part of background checks for new jobs, and the effects of a simple post are more wide-reaching than ever.

Researchers at the University of California-Davis recently conducted a study that explores the longstanding effects of negative social media comments.

“It’s not just that negative chat has a long life,” said lead author Seth Frey. “But it has a longer effect on the original speaker. Negative people are really hurting themselves.”

More than just words

To see the ways comments on social media are affecting users, the researchers analyzed over 600,000 conversations from a popular online social game. Though the average age of those involved in the study was between eight and 12 years old, there were millions of users involved in the conversations that were happening in the game.

To gauge the positivity or negativity of the statements in the chats, the researchers utilized a toolkit typically used for Twitter posts that measures feelings and attitudes.

Perhaps the most significant finding from this study was that positive messages resonate for a far shorter period of time than negative messages. Moreover, negative messages have the power to affect everyone -- including the sender -- and typically tend to incite more negativity.

The researchers found that negative messages can linger throughout the chat for an average of eight minutes, while positive messages linger for just one minute.

Frey and the researchers believe social media users should take heed when posting online, as this study shows that what you write online is far more powerful than many users think when mindlessly chatting. It also shows that the words used online affect everyone -- including the person that sends them.

Frey also pointed out that the way we communicate online is often very different than how we communicate in face-to-face settings, and the findings from this study show how powerful our words online can really be.

“It’s really about isolating the effects that your angry and distasteful actions have on you in the future,” said Frey.

Wide-reaching effects of social media

While this study showed the power behind what we post on social media, there are many other ways social media affects our day-to-day lives.

Over the summer, CareerBuilder released results from a survey which found that 70 percent of employers use social media sites as part of the applicant screening process, while another seven percent were in the process of implementing it.

The findings from that survey also showed that nearly 60 percent of employers rejected candidates based on what they posted on social media, while 22 percent said they looked on candidates’ social media with the sole intention of finding a reason not to hire them.

From an interpersonal standpoint, a recent study found that many people feel excluded by their friends on social -- though it isn’t intentional.

The study found that social media can have an exclusionary effect on users based on the way they are basically forced to watch their friends (unintentionally) exclude them in certain online interactions.

“We’re using these technologies daily, and they’re pushing information to users about their networks, which is what the sites are designed to do, but in the end, there’s negative effects on people’s well-being,” said researcher Michael Stefanone.

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