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The influence of empathy and self-presentation on engagement with social networking website posts

journal contribution
posted on 2017-06-01, 00:00 authored by Richelle MayshakRichelle Mayshak, Stefanie SharmanStefanie Sharman, Lucille Zinkiewicz, Alexa HayleyAlexa Hayley
This study examined associations between self-presentation, trait empathy, and engagement with social networking website (SNS) posts containing positive, neutral, or negative sentiment. It was hypothesised that participants would show lower engagement with negatively valenced posts than with positively valenced posts due to the increased cognitive and emotional effort associated with responding. It was also hypothesised that trait empathy would predict participants' engagement with SNS content. Participants' motivations for engaging with posts was also investigated through qualitative measures. Ninety-seven participants (aged 18–63 years; M = 26.32, SD = 8.68) interacted with a simulated SNS environment and described the aspects of posts that encouraged their engagement. Participants then completed trait empathy and social desirability measures. Results showed that participants liked, shared, and commented on more negatively valenced posts than positively valenced posts; they also hid more negatively valenced posts than positively valenced or neutral posts. Age predicted engagement with negatively valenced posts; age and trait empathy predicted engagement with neutral posts, and trait empathy predicted engagement with positively valenced posts. Participants described a number of aspects that encouraged them to engage with posts, including personal connections with the poster, humour or novelty of topic, personal interest in the topic, concern for the poster, positive experience by the poster, and self-presentation concerns. Results suggest that both self-presentation efforts and trait empathy can influence the type and amount of engagement users have with emotion laden SNS content.



Computers in human behavior




362 - 377




Amsterdam, The Netherlands





Publication classification

C Journal article; C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2017, Elsevier Ltd