Microblogging as therapy

We all have those friends who post too frequently to Facebook, in ways that feel like overly transparent grasps at affirmation.

Perhaps we should be showing them more empathy. A new research paper from researchers at Wharton (PDF) argues that less emotionally stable people use more emotional status updates or tweets to help regulate their emotional well-being.

The current research investigates both the causes and consequence of online social network use. Low emotionally stable individuals experience emotions more intensely and have difficulty regulating their emotions on their own. Consequently, we suggest that they use the microblogging feature on online social networks (e.g., Tweets or Facebook status updates) to help regulate their emotions. Accordingly, we find that less emotionally stable individuals microblog more frequently and share their emotions more when doing so, a tendency that is not observed offline. Further, such sharing, paired with the potential to receive social support, helps boost their well-being.

So the next time a friend posts a status update that feels like a plea for help, maybe that's exactly what it is, and maybe your LIke is a cheap form of therapy. Free consumer surplus! Maybe all of Anil Dash's favoriting should be seen as a social service.