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Is happiness contagious in online social networks?

What is happiness?

New brain research has shown that happiness can be measured. There are changes in the brain that can be observed when someone is happy. When someone is happy, one part of the brain is stimulated. Sadness, anger and other emotions are controlled by other portions of the brain. That's why it's possible for someone to feel both sad and pleasantly nostalgic when their child graduates or an elderly loved one passes away. Emotions are very complex and controlled by competing areas of the brain.

Happiness is an emotion that carries with it tremendous rewards. People who are happy tend to be healthier and more creative. In both the workplace and at home, they're more productive than people who aren't as content.

Happiness is determined by a wide range of factors. Genetic makeup plays a role in how happy we are. Our health is important in determining our general happiness, and, no matter how much we would like to deny it, our financial situation is a component of our happiness.

What has been underestimated in the past, however, is the importance of our social networks. A person who is at the center of a well-formed social network is more likely to be happy than someone without many social ties or who is on the outskirts of the social web. Happiness, as well as depression, anger and other emotions, seems to cluster in groups, so your choice of friends has a role in your happiness.

How much does your social network play into your happiness? It's suggested that having an extra $5,000 will not have as great of an impact on your happiness as the happiness of a friend of a friend's friend, who you don't even know. Pretty crazy, huh? But is the same thing true in the online world?