The social sharing of emotions
is a phenomenon in the field of psychology that concerns the tendency to recount and share emotional experiences with others. According to this area of research, emotional experiences are not uniquely fleeting and internal. Scientific studies of catastrophes and important life events demonstrate the propensity of victims to talk about their experiences and express their emotions. At the onset of these empirical studies, Rimé et al. coined the term social sharing of emotions in 1991 to name the observed phenomenon.This research was a significant development in social psychology because it questioned the accepted view of emotions that emotions are short-lived and intrapersonal episodes that was prevalent in the literature. Yet, the first set of experimentsrevealed that 88-96% of emotional experiences are shared and discussed to some degree. Therefore, the studies concerning the social sharing of emotions contribute a substantial new perspective to the understanding of emotions and their underlying processes.
Sharing vs. not sharing an emotional experience
The results of the above studies on the social sharing of emotion reveal that such behaviors are very common and are in fact the norm, transcending boundaries of gender, age, level of education, culture, etc. However, if social sharing occurs on average for 80-95% of emotional events, that leaves 5-20% that are not discussed and are perhaps purposefully kept secret.
Motives for social sharing
A study conducted in 2007 sought to determine why people believe they share emotional episodes. According to self reports by participants, there are several main reasons why people initiate social sharing behaviors (in no particular order):
- Rehearseto remember or re-experience the event
- Vent to express or alleviate pent-up emotions, to attempt catharsis
- Obtain help, support, and comfortto receive consolation and sympathy
- Legitimization to validate one's emotions of the event and have them approved
- Clarification and meaning to clarify certain aspects of the event that were not well understood, to find meaning in the happenings of the event
- Advice to seek guidance and find solutions to problems created by the event
- Bonding to become closer to others and reduce feelings of loneliness
- Empathy to emotionally arouse or touch the listener
- Draw attention to receive attention from others, possibly to impress others
- Entertain to engage others and facilitate social interactions