The Role of Emotion Shocks in Online Community Dynamics
46 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2022
Date Written: October 28, 2022
Online communities generate marketing value for both firms and consumers, and their sustainability relies on continuous user engagement. In an environment in which competition for engagement is fierce, digital platforms seemingly favor the use of negative emotion to engage users. Yet, the impact of emotion shocks on the fabric of social interactions in online communities remains unclear. In this study, we assess the impact of negative emotional shocks on user engagement in online communities, leveraging a natural experiment on Reddit.com. Particularly, we measure the effects of emotion shocks associated with outcomes of NCAA basketball games. We track the volume and network structure of user engagement in NCAA communities around game days, and estimate causal effects of emotion shocks using difference-in-difference models. We find that negative emotional shocks decrease user engagement, retention, and the activation of new users. Furthermore, the structure of discussion networks changes, and user-generated content expresses more social disconnection. These effects are strongest for unexpected negative events, suggesting that expectations management can potentially mitigate emotional disruptions. The effects also vary depending on the relative position of users in their social networks. The results provide insight into the complex social consequences of exposing users to emotions on community dynamics.
Keywords: Social networks, online communities, natural experiments, collective emotion
JEL Classification: D71, D85, M3,Z13,D7
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