All That (Digital) Drama: Juggling Emotion on Social Media

Shivani Desai
October 25, 2017

Thanks to social media, our lives are constantly surrounded by all sorts of emotional content on our social media feeds. Given what’s been going on in the world in the past year or so, it’s understandable that social content across the board has become increasingly emotional. We’re seeing our friends and family share social posts that include terms like:

Outraged. Disgusted. Heartbroken. Infuriating. HOW CAN THIS HAPPEN?

These are powerful words and phrases, and we’re seeing these being used daily to share someone’s emotions on a certain topic. Seeing these terms on the regular becomes exhausting.  It becomes overwhelming. It becomes tiring.

And in order to even be heard in such a crowded space, we begin to turn to other methods of highly charged conversations. We realize that there is no other way for us to be heard unless we’re shouting at the top of our lungs alongside everyone else. So that’s what we do.

Here’s the thing though. It’s not just you and your friends that are speaking with your hearts on your sleeves.

You’re not alone.

Brands do it, too. Through videos, the written word, headlines, and so much more, brands have upped their emotive game when it comes to sharing and getting their audience to feel so. many. things.

Enter VICE News. This is one brand that understands and, in turn, relays emotive content better than any other news organization, in my opinion. For example, let’s take the tragic events in Charlottesville. After all was said and done, VICE News released a documentary titled Charlottesville: Race and Terror.

Keywords: Race. Terror. No additional flashy terms needed. Just straightforward, brutally honest, and directly to the point.

Their original post with the documentary received more than 37 million views and 204,000 shares on Facebook, while gaining an additional 5.8 million views on YouTube. That’s 42 million views on the documentary.

CNN, on the other hand, shared the same information (mostly, at least..) but with an altogether different headline. Their post = a mere 573,000 views.

Emotion works, baby.

The heartbreaking and emotional posts shared by viewers after the VICE News documentary came out can be grouped into three categories.




And in some cases, there are posts that exhibit all three emotions because we’re feeling that passionate about it.

What is it that makes us share our strong feelings so publicly? Is it because we:

According to a study from Cornell University, “…this process can decrease stress and anxiety associated with negative emotions while enhancing positive affect through reliving positive emotional experiences in conversation.”

Say what?

Basically, by sharing our highly charged emotions on social media, we actually end up lowering our level of stress and anxiety about the situation itself. We’re then able to make positive emotional connections with others when engaging in conversations. Make sense?

Brand Anger: A One-Act Play

All the emotional content that’s out on social isn’t just about the social issues, though. In fact, people head to social when they’re angry over just about anything, including customer service issues, product issues and more. 

Let me take a minute to introduce you to my friend, Dan. ???????? He just finished watching the VICE News Charlottesville documentary and is feeling extremely ???? about the fact that there are still active Nazis in 2017. (Me too, Dan. Me too.)

After Dan finished watching the documentary, he went to pay a parking ticket online and had a…well…not-so-great experience. Because he had so much anger built up already, some of that anger manifested itself into his response to the Parking Authority.

However, as a brand, an offer to help can go a long way.

But what causes multiple angry messages towards brands? Why do these angry tweets catch on like fire so quickly?

Because when we start to notice someone’s anger towards a brand, we automatically begin to feel for them. We feel empathetic towards them and the situation they are now under, and recognize that if we were in that same situation, we’d be angry and upset, too. So we join forces and call out the brand in hopes that justice will be served, the brand will come to their senses and apologize for whatever mistake they made. But is that enough?

It can be when done correctly.

The emotional, angry tweet can go from two thumbs down:

To two thumbs up so fast:

How do brands do this, exactly? You’ll have to stay tuned.