Facebook and emotions: it’s complicated

This German research has been all over the media because it’s bad news about Facebook: ‘Facebook users were surveyed regarding their feelings after using the platform. More than one-third of respondents reported predominantly negative feelings, such as frustration. The researchers identified that envying their “Facebook friends” is the major reason for this feeling. (source) The research hasn’t been published yet, but will be presented at the “11th International Conference Wirtschaftsinformatik (Information Systems)” to be held in Leipzig, Germany, February 27 through March 1, 2013.

Is this correct, probably yes, but it’s more complicated, because there can also be positive effects. All kinds of emotions can happen online. We already mentioned research that showed posting updates on Facebook can generate positive feelings or better can fight feelings of depression.

Even Facebook has been looking at the topic and found that emotions on Facebook can be contagious:

“Facebook data scientists used an anonymous computer program to scan the status updates of about 1 million English speakers, searching for positive words including “thanks,” “wonderful,” “cute” and “sunshine”; and negative words including “angry,” “worst” and “sucks.” They then scanned the status updates of those people’s roughly 150 million friends, to see whether the emotions were echoed by others, and discovered a pattern where negative and positive feelings were transmitted to friends for the following three days. Facebook’s Gross National Happiness index is at apps.facebook.com/gnh_index. Other academic papers by the Facebook data team are at:www.facebook.com/data?sk=app_4949752878.”

So what’s happening? I think it depends on what you’re looking for. If you look at traces of envy you’ll find them online (just as in everyday life), if you look at traces of happiness, consolation,… too.

The question often lies in the difference between online and offline, but is this still relevant when we live inline? Interesting questions, open for further suggestions!



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