Abstract

On Social Networking Sites (SNS) users disclose mostly positive and often self-enhancing information. Scholars refer to this phenomenon as the positivity bias in SNS communication (PBSC). However, while theoretical explanations for this phenomenon have been proposed, an empirical proof of these theorized mechanisms is still missing. The project presented in this Research-in-Progress paper aims at explaining the PBSC with the mechanism specified in the self-enhancement envy spiral. Specifically, we hypothesize that feelings of envy drive people to post positive and self-enhancing content on SNS. To test this hypothesis, we developed an experimental design allowing to examine the causal effect of envy on the positivity of users’ subsequently posted content. In a preliminary study, we tested our manipulation of envy and could show its effectiveness in inducing different levels of envy between our groups. Our project will help to broaden the understanding of the complex dynamics of SNS and the potentially adverse driving forces underlying them.

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