A few weeks ago I wrote about the concept of how emotions elicit online trends and serve as the key motivating factor for all interaction on social media platforms. I presented the argument that the varying methods of distribution of social feeds across the key players could drastically change how we feel and share certain types of content. In keeping with our theme of Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions, I will select two of the wheel’s core emotions in a series that explores how social sharing makes us feel. This week covers arguably the most important set of emotions: Ecstasy and Grief.
Grief is one of the most difficult emotional states to overcome. As stated previously, grief results from the natural reaction from loss. Whether it’s a loved one, prized possession or natural ability, the loss of something cherished can often leave a person devastated, unable to cope with normal day-to-day activities.
Because grief is such a personal and sensitive emotion, many people wouldn’t associate it with social networking. After all, social sharing is generally meant to be entertaining or informative. When you think of Facebook, you think of happy photos of your friends and family enjoying a day at the beach or a fun night out. Every now and then, the news of a death might pop up on your feed, breaking the happy-go-lucky façade of Facebook with a crushing does of reality. These aren’t just words and faces on a computer; they are real people with whom you share real relationships.
Social Media and Death
According to PCPro, approximately 1.5 million Facebook users (and similarly Twitter users) die each year. It is the harsh reality that comes from a user base reaching over half a billion people worldwide.
Facebook addresses these tragedies with their Memorial Pages. Accounts of the deceased are transferred over to a private page. Close friends and relatives are encouraged to share their stories and tributes. Twitter’s policy is more discrete. It gives the next of kin full access of the account, and the option of deleting it or archiving it.
Psychologists agree that Facebook’s “memorializing” of the deceased can in fact help ease the grieving process. It opens a line of immediate communication for someone in mourning. Reading condolences and reminiscing happy memories is an important part of coping with death, and seeing it all on one page can help keep that person’s spirit alive.
Although social media is a good outlet for close friends and family to connect over the loss of a loved one, it is important to remember that the initial breaking of the news should still be handled with caution. Overall Facebook is probably the best social media venue to curate comments and condolences. Other social media venues have more anonymity and can lead to the risk of potentially hurtful or exploitative interactions from other users.
Ecstasy is an extreme feeling of happiness, stemming from the lower-ranking emotions of serenity and joy. It is the culmination of both self-fulfillment and pleasure that induces a smile or laugh. For hundreds of years humans have been seeking new ways to elicit happiness. Whether we find happiness through music, dance, jokes, religion, art, etc., it’s something that we all seek.
The rise of the Internet and social media has amplified this never-ending quest for happiness. It has given the user total control over what content he or she desires with almost no limits to how it’s consumed. Entire music catalogues, thousands of hours of premium TV and movie content, millions of conversations and interactions surrounding the show or movie you just watched, cute animal pictures, political satire, pornography – it’s all readily available for your own entertainment. All of these things are available to make you happier.
We Crave Reinforcement
In addition to the pure pleasure we gain from the content we consume, we also enjoy the self-fulfillment of sharing with others. Giving can often be just as good as receiving, and a new form of pleasure is received via others’ reactions. Humans love positive reinforcement.
Virtually all social media platforms are built with this appeal to emotions in mind. It feels good when you receive a flood of likes on a photo you’ve shared, or Reddit Karma for something clever you thought up at work. Almost nothing feels better than when you’ve received positive attention for something you’ve shared. The social sharing “ego boost” is a staple of online interactions and an important part of understanding emotion in social media.
The Effects of Those Around You
Another thing that affects happiness is the company you keep. This is especially true for your social networks. According to the guardian, an individual’s happiness can be determined by the happiness of those connected in his or her online network. Another study also suggests that those with less online connections (Facebook friends, Twitter followers, etc.) are more likely to post negative comments in their feed than those with larger networks.
While there’s something to be said about keeping a tight-knit community of Facebook friends, those that don’t take advantage of growing their networks might miss out exciting new connections and opportunities for happiness. Platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Reddit especially encourage strangers to interact and open themselves up to new ideas and perspectives. Being adventurous and taking part in the online conversation might be just what you need to achieve ecstasy.