And you know how much your brain ends up processing? Just 40-50 bits of information per second. Those 40-50 bits that we choose to focus on become our reality. This is why it’s so important that we consciously curate what we focus on and what we share with others. It’s also why scrolling endlessly through Facebook doesn’t always make us feel so great. It’s an endless stream of information and posts, and it’s a toss up as to whether they’re positive posts, negative news or complaints.
A recent study done by researchers from Cornell University, in conjunction with Facebook, found that when researchers manipulated the news feed to be more positive, people posted more positive stories in their own feeds. The same holds true for the negative. With a sample size of more than 689,000 people, this was the first massive study to show the effects of emotional contagion. What it clearly showed is that what you broadcast changes the broadcast choices made by others. Your ripple effect is positive or negative depending on your choices.
While you can hide the negative posters from your feed or prioritize the friends who show up first on your news feed, one of the best ways to change how you interact with Facebook and social media is to be proactive and create the change you want to see. This is where it’s helpful to power up your approach and use the Power Lead (a positive, meaningful start to a conversation). With social media this can be anything from sharing that feel-good story you read, wishing someone a happy birthday, expressing to a friend how great it was to see them the other day, or even just posting a cool photo.
And if you’re looking to boost your business’s presence on social media, using the Power Lead to share positive content can really help.
Research shows that positive emotional content is more likely to go viral than negative stories.
You can use the Power Lead to talk about tough situations and news stories too. When you share an article about something particularly difficult, preface your post with action steps that you think could be done in this situation or even ask others what they think those steps could be. Get a dialogue going. A Power Lead doesn’t mean glossing over an issue. Here, you’re creating a Power Lead by leading with hope and shifting focus to what options we do have.
Social connection is the single greatest predictor of long-term happiness, and Facebook and other social media outlets can be really great for fostering and deepening your connections. So get out there and share some positive content and Power Lead your social following into a better social media.
 Manfred Zimmerman, “Neurophysiology of Sensory Systems,” in Fundamentals of Sensory Physiology, 3rd rev. ed., ed. Robert F. Schmidt (New york: Springer, 1986), 116.
 Kramer, Adam D.I., Guillory, Jamie E., Hancock, Jeffrey T., Core Data Science Team, Facebook, Inc., “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111, no.24 (2014): 8788-8790.
 Berger, J. and Milkman, K.L. “What makes online content viral?” Journal of Marketing Research 49, no. 2 (2011): 192-205.
Michelle Gielan, a national CBS News anchor turned UPenn positive psychology researcher, is now the bestselling author of Broadcasting Happiness. She is partnered with Arianna Huffington to research how transformative stories fuel success.