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Study Shows Role of Media in Sharing Life Events

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Posting on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, can intensify emotions  both good and bad.

A new study finds that people strategically choose how to share their life events.

Credit: MichaEL Forster Rothbart

University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison researchers recently studied what happens when people share news via new media.

The study included 300 undergraduates who monitored how sharing affected their emotions by keeping a daily diary, in which they noted what they shared, where they shared it, and how they felt before and after the event and the sharing had occurred.

The researchers found almost 70 percent of the social sharing took place via some kind of media. People use phones, texting, and social media to connect with others in a "substantial way," says UW-Madison professor Catalina Toma.

The study also found participants strategically chose the media that could meet their psychological needs. For example, when experiencing positive events, people preferred to share through texting and Twitter, since both media are accessible from smartphones and are nonintrusive in that communication partners do not have to reply immediately. When experiencing negative events, people could warrant interrupting their partners and preferred using the phone, which is more intrusive.

The researchers also found social sharing via media augmented the event's emotional tone. "Examining how people share their important personal events through new media and how they feel as a result of it is a golden opportunity to learn how humans work," Toma says.

From University of Wisconsin-Madison
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