Intense and negative emotions in user-generated content on social media platforms have attracted increasing attention. However, little empirical work has investigated the antecedents of these social media emotions. This study examines the effects of topic salience on the intensity and negativity of social media emotions from an agenda-setting perspective. Based on a natural experiment of a one-week suspension of the "List of Hot Topics" on Sina Weibo, we use the difference-in-differences method to analyze 31,674 posts on hot topics. We find a significant decrease in emotion intensity and negativity after topic salience decreased. Further, these effects are heterogeneous among users with different levels of popularity, i.e., when faced with salient topics, users with higher popularity express more intense emotions while those with lower popularity express more negative emotions. This study reveals the dark side of listing hot topics and provides practical implications for managing emotions on social media platforms.
Chen, Liping; Jia, Luxue; and Ren, Fei, "What Drives Hostile Emotions on Social Media Platforms: The Role of Topic Salience" (2022). PACIS 2022 Proceedings. 187.
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