Emotional contagion: What you need to know about catching feelings online

Metro, February 2021

Becca Caddy Metro

Do you ever wake up feeling hopeful and positive, reach for your phone, check Twitter (or Instagram or Facebook) and next thing you know you’re filled with dread? You’re not alone. You might be experiencing emotional contagion.

Emotional contagion is when we see someone expressing an emotion and then it becomes ‘contagious’ and we begin to feel it ourselves. Simply put, you can ‘catch’ emotions. Think about how you’d feel after chatting with a friend who’s excited about their new job. You’d probably be happy for them and excited too. Or how about after meeting another friend who complains constantly. You might feel deflated and as fed-up as they do by the time your conversation ends.

This is normal, but most of the time we don’t know it’s happening. That’s because we’re unaware how often we catch emotions from others – and then believe they’re our own – our moods and our mental health can suffer as we’re often at the whim of someone else’s feelings. But if this process is automatic, how can we stop it? Or at least lessen its effects?

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