I find this moderately sad (do not share)

by on January 2, 2014 at 7:45 am in Philosophy, Web/Tech | Permalink

One study of 7,000 New York Times articles by two professors at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School found that sad stories were the least shared because sadness is a low-arousal, negative state. People were more likely to share positive stories because it was a way to show generosity and boost their reputations. Sharing pleasant things in public made them appear nice themselves.

That is from a gated piece by John Gapper.  To paraphrase Robin Hanson, “sharing isn’t about sharing.”

radical white blogger January 2, 2014 at 7:53 am

sadness must be suppressed…it tends to depress consumer purchases. Happy Smiley Faces uber alles!

boba January 2, 2014 at 8:27 am

>Sharing pleasant things in public made them appear nice themselves.< aka the Upworthy business model. BTW I only know of Upworthy, having never visited the site, from this article on Smarm .

Rahul January 2, 2014 at 8:39 am

Aren’t “anger” and “awe” the most relevant predictors of sharing, and positivity not so much? That’s how I read their regression coefficients (Table 4).

GiT January 2, 2014 at 9:17 pm

Hm, is that “awe” awe or “awwwwww” awe? ;)

Dan Weber January 2, 2014 at 8:41 am

I think “outrage” is one of the easiest emotions to share over the Internet.

Did you see what the politician from the other party said? Unbelievable!! Tell all your friends!!11

Urso January 2, 2014 at 12:45 pm

My favorite is outrage about something which the other side didn’t say, but you just know they would have if they had thought about it.

zbicyclist January 2, 2014 at 9:49 pm

A large number of the “outrage” shares I get aren’t from other people (one brother-in-law excepted) but from organized groups.

Organized groups use “outrage” articles as a fund raising tool — cynically, IMO.

Grendel January 2, 2014 at 9:03 am

> One study of 7,000 New York Times articles by two professors at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School

Man, that’s two productive professors…

Dangling Mod January 3, 2014 at 10:06 am


Marie January 3, 2014 at 10:11 am


Mrs. Davis January 2, 2014 at 9:31 am

No wonder so few economics posts are shared. And how surprising so many political ones are.

Ross Parker January 2, 2014 at 9:42 am

Doe this explain TED?

Ross Parker January 2, 2014 at 9:42 am

‘does’, clearly

Marie January 3, 2014 at 10:11 am

Yeah, that seems likely, doesn’t it?

JWatts January 2, 2014 at 10:03 am

What a depressing story. I don’t think I’ll mention it to anyone. ;)

CPV January 2, 2014 at 10:08 am

Oversharing unactionable bad news is indeed a negative externality.

No, I do not feel that good when I see the heartbreaks you embrace
If I was a master thief perhaps I’d rob them
And now I know you’re dissatisfied with your position and your place
Don’t you understand, it’s not my problem

I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment, I could be you
Yes, I wish that for just one time, you could stand inside my shoes
You’d know what a drag it is to see you

Bill January 2, 2014 at 11:02 am

If it is a sad post,

You don’t have to ask people not to share.

Dave K January 2, 2014 at 11:14 am

More on this is in Jonah Berger’s excellent book Contagious.

Bill January 2, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Agreed. Surprise gets shared the most. As does self-linking to a site that also carries your post. So, when Tyler comments here on something he posted in the NYTimes, and recommends you read it there, readership moves to Tylers NYTimes Post, which then raises Tylers post to the most frequently read category.

A twofer.

dan in philly January 2, 2014 at 12:19 pm

It seems songs used to be more sad than they currently are. At leeast when I was young, there were a ton of sad country music songs which isn’t as true in pop country today
I wonder if its possible to compare sadness before big data? Is this just a current mind set or does it measure a human nature eternal?

dearieme January 2, 2014 at 1:46 pm

“Sharing” is a repellent usage. Whether it’s more or less dishonest than “issues” is unclear to me.

Givco January 2, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Everything in that snippet after “because” is pure conjecture, right?

Steve Sailer January 2, 2014 at 7:43 pm

The NYT’s Most Emailed list is clearly driven largely by older women emailing self-help articles to friends and loved ones (e.g., a new medical treatment, how to get into Harvard, etc.). The Most Blogged list is clearly driven by older men who are into Democrat v. Republican political battles. I find the Most Emailed list substantially less boring than the Most Blogged list.

Steve Sailer January 2, 2014 at 11:32 pm

Today’s NYT Most Emailed List:

1. PRIVATE LIVES Kale? Juicing? Trouble Ahead

2. OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR Cold Turkey Isn’t the Only Route [how to get alcoholics to go easy on the booze]

3. A Speck in the Sea

4. EDITORIAL Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower

5. TOOL KIT Cleaning the Mobile Germ Warehouse

6. STATE OF THE ARTCivilian Photography, Now Rising to New Level

7. Life Goes On, at Long Last

8. THE FLEXITARIAN Sustainable Resolutions for Your Diet

9. 36 Hours in Chicago

10. Loan Monitor Is Accused of Ruthless Tactics on Student Debt

Steve Sailer January 2, 2014 at 11:33 pm

Today’s Most Blogged list at the NYT:

Most Blogged »

Articles most frequently blogged by NYTimes.com readers

Editorial: Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower
Op-Ed Contributor: The Obamacare We Deserve
Boehner Is Said to Back Change on Immigration
Justice Blocks Contraception Mandate on Insurance in Suit by Nuns
Loan Monitor Is Accused of Ruthless Tactics on Student Debt
Consumers Start Using Coverage Under Health Law
Taking Office, de Blasio Vows to Fix Inequity
I Had My DNA Picture Taken, With Varying Results
Bomb Attacks in Russia Echo Threats by Chechen Insurgent
Chinese Copter Rescues 52 From Ship in Antarctic Ice

Joël January 3, 2014 at 6:18 pm

A possible counter-example: right now, the most shared article of the french newspaper Le Monde is titled “Devant une salle comble, Dieudonné martèle son humor anti-juif”, very roughly “in front of a full room, Dieudonné repeats his antisemitic jokes”. Of course one can’t be sure, but it is most likely that for most of the people sharing this article, this is “bad news”
about the rise of antisemitic speech in France. Perhaps the result of the study would have been different in France…

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