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How Poor East Coast Weather Can Bum Out Californians Too

Above: The "Facebook" logo is seen on a tablet screen in Paris in December 2013.

Bad weather might be rare in San Diego. But when it hits, lots of us start to get grumpy on Facebook. New research suggests we should all stop doing that. Because according to UC San Diego scientists, when you bring your rainy day blues to Facebook, you could be bumming out people all across the country.

Aired 3/13/14 on KPBS News.

According to UC San Diego scientists, when you bring your rainy day blues to Facebook, you could be bumming out people all across the country.

James Fowler and his colleagues analyzed more than a billion Facebook status updates to understand how emotions spread online. Predictably, they saw negative posts spike in cities where it was raining.

But here's the weird thing. Friends in other cities who read those bummed-out posts became more likely to write bummer posts themselves, even if the weather was ideal where they lived. In other words, the rain in a completely different city had indirectly affected their mood, thanks to Facebook. Emotion was contagious.

"The magnitude of the effect was really surprising," Fowler said. "Our research suggests that every happy post you write on Facebook is going to cause one or two of your friends who live in different cities to write happy posts as well. In other words, your personal emotional impact in the world just doubled or triple compared to what we thought before."

And this effect could extend beyond the weather. Fowler says the way emotions spread online could effect politics, the economy and public health.

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