Individual Differences in Emotional Reactions to Social Media Posts: The Role Anger
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Social media has created new ways to promote negative content that can be passed around, leaving users with undesired negative emotional states and in some cases, affecting real-life behavior. Everyone can react differently to the same content but how they ultimately react is not fully understood. The present study examined relationships between state anger (evoked by negative social media posts) anger expression styles (as indexed by the STAXI-2), and the Behavioral Inhibition System and the Behavioral Activation System (BIS/BAS). Specifically, expression styles and the BIS/BAS were examined to determine whether they can predict anger reactivity to social media posts. 304 undergraduate students viewed 30 social media posts that were previously rated as anger-inducing and asked to rate each one on how angry it made them feel. To confirm if the social media posts used in the present study resulted in an increase of anger states, state anger (as indexed by the STAXI-2) was assessed prior to and after viewing inflammatory posts. Results showed that state anger significantly increased after viewing the posts, confirming that they were successful in promoting the angry reactions. When examining the bivariate correlations between the social media anger ratings and the BIS/BAS it was found that the BIS, BAS Drive, and BAS Fun Seeking positively correlated with the anger ratings. When examining BIS/BAS & STAXI-2 scales as predictors in a multiple regression, it was found that only the BIS positively predicted anger ratings. However, an independent samples t-test revealed that females significantly experienced more anger than men. The findings suggest that while the anger ratings could be predicted by levels of the BIS, when controlling for sex, only Anger Control In was a significant predictor. In light of these findings, research examining social media’s impact on anger states should focus on investigating sex differences in anger response, and the rewarding experiences of social media when examining anger.