Why Anger is More Contagious than Joy (& Why It Makes Me Mad : )
Did you know that angry tweets have a much higher rate of being retweeted. At least that’s what a newly released study from China’s Beihang University says. To be specific, anger tended to “spread faster” than joy, disgust, or sadness by a factor of three. But researcher Rui Fan and his research team also found that joy was the second most contagious emotion.
Equally fascinating, there’s been a lot of research done on the spread of emotions throughout workplaces and sports-teams. Studies have found that positive or negative emotions would spread across a team, regardless of circumstances. I.e., A sports team could have the best win record in the league yet holistically be depressed. Ironically, for most of us, our emotions are more a product of those we’re hanging around than our physical and financial circumstances. Generally speaking, the most emotive people tend to set the mood in an organization. But apparently anger has a higher level of contagiousness – which is partly why many politicians practice the art of “false outrage.” They honestly get a larger response from people.
Of course, the Bible has a lot to say on the topic of anger like: “Do not associate with one easily angered” (Prov. 22:24). Unfortunately, there’s a lot of angry Christians on the web too. But, keep in mind: We serve a God that is “slow to become angry” (Exodus 34:6). So, if we want to reveal the God of love (Jn. 13:34), we may want to think twice before posting that awesome and sarcastic zinger. In the end: “Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:20).
I’m not saying that we should be inauthentic… exude happiness and rainbows by posting a nonstop array of cheesy inspirational tweets. But the research definitely implies: If we want to stay full of God’s joy, we just might need to work twice as hard at receiving it.
So, I’d imagine that the same holds true when it comes to spreading joy. Those of us who want to lift other people’s burdens may need to spend a little more energy. Like I shared in my book Pharisectomy, one way to increase the joy would be to throw cash out of our car windows and smile (although, please refrain from using rolls of quarters); or, alternately, we could strap a big plastic unicorn to our roof-racks. After all, it’s hard to get upset when you’re being tailed by a unicorn. Alternately, I suppose the simplest way to spread joy is this: When you think of something good, say it. The bedrock of Christianity is all about “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17). And yes, sometimes righteousness demands a “holy anger.” But don’t deceive yourself.
In the end: Love is what causes people to “know we are Christ’s disciples” (Jn. 13:34). And Psm 126 argues that joy is what causes the nations to say: “The Lord has done great things for [them].” So, let’s trash our sin natures and make a better emotion contagious: joy.