Sharing Our Sorrow Via Facebook
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Geteiltes Leid ist halbes Leid (“Shared sorrow is half the sorrow”) is a popular German proverb that refers to the importance of sharing bad news and troubling experiences with others. The process of sharing takes on many different forms: We may take comfort in the fact that others have experienced similar forms of sorrow, we are often reassured by the empathy and encouragement we receive from friends, and even the mere process of narrating the details of what is troubling us can be therapeutic. Finding an attentive audience that is willing to listen to our troubles is not always easy. In a highly mobile, globalized world, some of our best friends may be located thousands of kilometers away, unable to meet face-to-face. The omnipresence of social media networks may provide a solution. We are now able to stay in touch with hundreds of friends and family members and commiserate with them. But are people as receptive to sorrow shared via Facebook as they are in face-to-face contacts? A team of researchers headed by Dr. Andrew High at the University of Iowa recently investigated this question and published their findings in the article Misery rarely gets company: The influence of emotional bandwidth on supportive communication on Facebook. (1) The researchers created three distinct Facebook profiles of a fictitious person named Sara Thomas who had just experienced a break-up. The three profiles were identical in all respects except for how much information was conveyed about the recent (fictitious) break-up. In their article, High and colleagues use the expression “emotional bandwidth” to describe the extent of emotions conveyed in the Facebook profile.