The Emotional Combinations That Make Stories Go Viral

HBRViral

Excerpt from this article in the Harvard Business Review:

Viral content typically evokes high-arousal emotions, such as joy or fear. But new research suggests arousal is just one of the underlying drivers of viral content. High dominance, or a feeling of being in control, may be another key driver behind content that is widely shared.

…Articles with a large number of comments were found to evoke high-arousal emotions, such as anger and happiness, paired with low-dominance emotions where people felt less in control, such as fear. The New York Times articles that received the most comments in 2015 all featured emotionally charged, and often divisive, topics: Amazon’s stringent workplace policies, Kim Davis, a police officer charged with murder, the San Bernardino shootings, the Benghazi panel.

On the other hand, social sharing was very connected to feelings of high dominance, where the reader feels in control, such as inspiration or admiration. This explains why your Facebook newsfeed may be flooded by friends sharing feel-good stories. Some of the most-shared content on Facebook within the past year included titles such as “17 Reasons Why Your High School Best Friends Will Be Your BFFs for Life” (more than 230,000 Facebook shares) and “51 of the Most Beautiful Sentences in Literature” (more than 300,000 Facebook shares).

 

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Study Finds Londoners Take the Most Miserable Selfies

Excerpt from this article:

The Big Bang Data Exhibition, a new project from selfiecity, collected selfies from Bangkok, London, Berlin, Moscow, New York and Sao Paulo. A team of media researchers, data scientists and information designers then used the images in order to compare and contrast a bunch of interesting things, like emotional expression, physical poses, gender and different age ranges.

The findings show that… London has an average of 0.55 on the happiness emotion scale (with 1 being the most happy) in comparison to the 0.62 average of other cities in the study.

 

 

OMG! The Hyperbole of Internet-Speak

OMG literally dying, illustration by Tiffany Ford

Excerpt from this article:

“It’s almost like ‘dying’ has become a filler for anytime anyone says anything remotely entertaining,” she said. “Like, if what you’re saying won’t legitimately put me to sleep, I respond with, ‘OMG dying.’”

R.I.P. to the understatement. Welcome to death by Internet hyperbole, the latest example of the overly dramatic, forcibly emotive, truncated, simplistic and frequently absurd ways chosen to express emotion in the Internet age (or sometimes feign it).

Other examples: THIS (for when a thing is so awesome you are at a loss for how to describe it); feeeeeels (for something that gives you multiple feelings); unreal!!!! (for when a thing is totally believable and only mildly amusing); yassssss (because “yes” will no longer do); -est (greatest, prettiest, cutest, funniest) EVER, which now applies to virtually all things; and “I can’t even,” for when something leaves you so emotive that you simply cannot even explain yourself.

There’s also a;lsdkjfa;lsdkgjs; meaning “I’m so excited/angry/speechless that all I can do is literally slam my hands/head/body against the keyboard” (thus producing a series of gibberish that usually involves the letters a, s, d and k).

“I use ‘I can’t even’ whenever I talk about babies or puppies, or sometimes couples, but not like couples our age, but older couples like my parents…”

“‘Literally dying’ has become, like, the new LOL,” she said, referring to the acronym for “laugh out loud,” which, of course, if you know literally anything about Internet speech, means precisely the opposite.

 

The Ghosts in Our Machines

A friend calls unexpected connections with lost loved ones “winks,” and finding Google Maps photos of my mother felt like a wink of monumental proportions.

Excerpt from this poignant article in The New Yorker, where the writer describes spotting an image of his deceased mother on Google Street View:

Every now and again, when I’ve been working for too many hours without a break or have spent an entire day writing something, I jump on Google Maps Street View and get lost in my past.

The images on Street View, taken by fancy cameras that are usually—though not always—strapped to the tops of cars, are a boon for basement-dwelling architecture buffs and those who want to see the world without going broke. I use the site for far less cosmopolitan purposes. I track down baseball diamonds and bike trails I played on as a kid. I locate comic-book shops from back in the day, old college dorms, hotels my family stayed in during summer vacations back when we took summer vacations as a family. I plop down in places I’ve been, places that have meant something to me, and look around. Then I compare the contemporary to what’s in my memory. It’s a way to unwind, a respite from more taxing laptop-based endeavors.

At first I was convinced that it couldn’t be her, that I was just seeing things. When’s the last time you’ve spotted someone you know on Google Maps? I never had. And my mother, besides, is no longer alive. It couldn’t be her.

That feeling passed quickly. Because it was her. In the photo, my mom is wearing a pair of black slacks and a floral-print blouse. Her hair is exactly as I always remember it. She’s carrying what appears to be a small grocery bag.

The confluence of emotions, when I registered what I was looking at, was unlike anything I had ever experienced—something akin to the simultaneous rush of a million overlapping feelings. There was joy, certainly—“Mom! I found you! Can you believe it?”—but also deep, deep sadness. There was heartbreak and hurt, curiosity and wonder, and everything, seemingly, in between.

Campus Suicide and the Pressure of Perfection

Excerpt from this article:

Classmates seemed to have it all together. Every morning, the administration sent out an email blast highlighting faculty and student accomplishments. Some women attended class wearing full makeup. Ms. DeWitt had acne. They talked about their fantastic internships. She was still focused on the week’s homework. Friends’ lives, as told through selfies, showed them having more fun, making more friends and going to better parties. Even the meals they posted to Instagram looked more delicious.

In 2003, Duke jolted academe with a report describing how its female students felt pressure to be “effortlessly perfect”: smart, accomplished, fit, beautiful and popular, all without visible effort. At Stanford, it’s called the Duck Syndrome. A duck appears to glide calmly across the water, while beneath the surface it frantically, relentlessly paddles.

“Nobody wants to be the one who is struggling while everyone else is doing great,” said KahaariKenyatta, a Penn senior who once worked as an orientation counselor. “Despite whatever’s going on — if you’re stressed, a bit depressed, if you’re overwhelmed — you want to put up this positive front.”

Citing a “perception that one has to be perfect in every academic, cocurricular and social endeavor,” the task force report described how students feel enormous pressure that “can manifest as demoralization, alienation or conditions like anxiety or depression.”

In the era of social media, such comparisons take place on a screen with carefully curated depictions that don’t provide the full picture. Mobile devices escalate the comparisons from occasional to nearly constant.

The danger of too many selfies: We’re striving for perfection that won’t come

Argentina

Excerpt from this article:

…Many selfies are driven by the twin forces of arrogance and anxiety. Like a dog chasing its tail, this is how much of our society now works. One group – arrogant, narcissistic and self-promoting – starts a trend. The other group – anxious and wanting to fit in – follows.

People who are narcissistic report sending the most selfies. This gets them attention and probably feels good – it you think you are hot, seeing your hotness broadcast to your social network is a positive experience. And this isn’t too surprising; it is the same pattern that appears in other social media, with narcissism predicting self-enhancing Facebook photos and number of Twitter posts.

The greater dangers from selfies are found on the anxiety side. For decades research psychologists have put mirrors and cameras in laboratories to understand what happens psychologically when we look at ourselves. The first experience is self-consciousness – we become aware of ourselves as objects. The second is comparison – we compare ourselves to our ideal standards. We think: Am I all that I should be? And the answer for many of us is no – with the result being anxiety.

This can be a problem with real consequences.