CANCELLED....Emotional sharing offline and online: processes and social consequences


CFS Lecture by Mikko Salmela, Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki, Finland

Emotional sharing offline and online: processes and social consequences
Mikko Salmela (University of Helsinki) & Christian von Scheve (Freie Universität Berlin)


Social media is built on the idea of social interaction and sharing of affect (e.g. Harju 2015, van Dijck 2009). Yet we know little about forms of emotional sharing in online platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and discussion forums, and their differences from emotional sharing in offline social groups and communities. In the first part of this presentation, we criticize two approaches to online emotional sharing in existing research: (1) the dominant media and communication studies approach that favours metonymic expressions such as “flow” and “circulation” in analysing sharing of affect online but sidesteps questions about the psychophysiological states of users (e.g. Papacharissi 2015; Sumiala et al. 2018), and (2) the information science approach that applies sentiment analysis to detecting positive or negative valence of various text corpora, addressing collective moods rather than shared emotions. In the second part, we seek to identify differences between emotional sharing offline and online, following the account of shared emotions by Salmela and Nagatsu (2016, 2017), supplemented with phenomenological analyses by León, Szanto, and Zahavi (2017) and Thonhauser (2018). We argue that both offline and online allow for emotions that qualify as shared by virtue of their intentional structure. However, the mediated nature of online sharing hampers both the physiological and the phenomenological dimensions of emotional sharing. We discuss mediated forms of expressing emotions online as well as technological features such as algorithms that support emotional sharing online. Other processes serving emotional sharing online include social appraisal (Döveling et al., 2018) and collective imagining (Harju 2015). Finally, we reflect differences in social consequences of emotional sharing online and offline. We suggest that online sharing cannot fully replicate the consequences of cohesion, solidarity, intimacy, and collective identity, associated with offline sharing (e.g. Jasper 2011; Collins 2004), especially regarding positive affects and emotions that emerge in joint action, either expressive as in rituals, or purposive as in social and political action. These include affective rewards of behavioural synchrony, pleasure of collective effervescence and corresponding sentiments, potential “Matthew-Effects”, and the satisfying sense of collective agency (Salmela & Nagatsu 2017; Jasper 2011; von Scheve 2012). This result supports the hypothesis that social groups such as political groups operating mainly online may have somewhat dissimilar emotional dynamics to political groups operating both offline and online (Salmela and von Scheve, 2018).


Mikko Salmela, D.Soc. Sc. (University of Helsinki, 1998), is a Senior Researcher in practical philosophy and Centre for Philosophy of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki. Salmela is specialized in theoretical and applied philosophy of emotions from an empirically informed perspective. In recent years, his research has focused on collective emotions and their functions in the structure and dynamics of social groups. In this context, he currently studies the role of emotions in inter- and intradisciplinary interaction; the role of shared emotions and empathy in the emergence and reinforcement of communality and togetherness in urban housing; as well as the emotional dynamics of populist political movements and polarization. Salmela´s publications include peer-reviewed articles in e.g. The Philosophical Quarterly, Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior, dialectica, Philosophical Explorations, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, Journal of Social Ontology, and Social Science Information, as well as an edited volume Collective Emotions: Perspectives from Psychology, Philosophy, and Sociology (with Christian von Scheve, OUP, 2014), and a monograph True Emotions (John Benjamins, 2014).