February 27, 2016

Once More with Feeling: Supportive Responses to Social Sharing on Facebook

Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing

By: Moira Burke, Mike Develin

Abstract

Life is more than cat pictures. There are tough days,heartbreak, and hugs. Under what contexts do people share these feelings online, and how do their friends respond? Using millions of de-identified Facebook status updates with poster-annotated feelings (e.g., feeling thankful or feeling worried), we examine the magnitude and circumstances in which people share positive or negative feelings and characterize the nature of the responses they receive. We find that people share greater proportions of both positive and negative emotions when their friend networks are smaller and denser. Consistent with social sharing theory, hearing about a friend’s troubles on Facebook causes friends to reply with more emotional and supportive comments. Friends’ comments are also more numerous and longer. Posts with positive feelings, on the other hand, receive more likes, and their comments have more positive language. Feelings that relate to the poster’s self worth, such as feeling defeated, feeling unloved, or feeling accomplished amplify these effects.