Loneliness Spreads Through Twitter, Says Study

The transmission of loneliness doesn’t necessarily require human contact

By Andrew Greiner
|  Tuesday, Dec 1, 2009  |  Updated 8:31 AM CDT
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Forget about H1N1, there’s a new contagious disease.

Loneliness.

So says John Cacioppo, director of the Center for Congnitive Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, in a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Tuesday.

Cacioppo analyzed decades of information taken from the Framingham Heart Study and determined that loneliness can spread from person to person like a social virus, according to the Chicago Tribune.

His research suggests that loneliness is a biological signal like hunger or fear that tells us when we’ve drifted too far from human contact. The indicator should encourage individuals to reach out for new contact, but sometimes the irritating habits of lonely people turn off those they’re reaching out to.

When a lonely person projects his or her feelings of loneliness – with, say, an offhand comment – the receiver takes on a bit of your loneliness and in turn passes it to someone else.

What’s worse: the transmission of loneliness doesn’t necessarily require human contact. Lonely people can pass along their feelings on the phone, or even online through social networks. Alas, sad tweets are contagious.

Cacioppo’s study -- which is out just in time for the holidays! -- found that women are more likely than men to pick up feelings of loneliness.

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