THE EMOTIONS SOCIAL MEDIA BRING TO NEWS: THE EMERGENCE OF EMPATHY AND COMPASSION AS ELEMENTS IN NEWS MESSAGES
Newhagen, John E
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This study is an experiment examining qualitative differences of social media as an emerging news platform from traditional main stream media. The study argued a need of the reinterpretation of Marshall McLuhan's notion, "media is the message" in terms of an interaction between news content and media platforms. The study proposed a new concept of users' proximity to news, called "locality," which has been matured by user driven social media environments. For the study, a laboratory experiment was conducted. A total of 83 college students in a large mid-Atlantic university participated in the laboratory experiment as a representative of young adult news consumers. A main stream media news website and Facebook were assigned as news platforms, while negative and positive news content was provided as news content to subjects. Subjects' responses to news content which was laden in the same directional valence of a platform (negative news on a negative main stream media news website) and an opposite directional platform (negative news on positive social media) were observed. Subjects' reaction time and accuracy of memory of news content were measured by psychological software. Subjects also reported their emotions such as valence, intensity, compassion and empathy on negative and positive news content. Results exhibited an effect of coactivation between news content and media platform. When the valence of news contents and its platform were contradicted, the effect of coactivation such as users' hesitation of decision making was found. The results implicated that users' preoccupied expectation for specific news platform may filter their attention to news stories on a specific platform. The ambivalent responses of both empathy and compassion on identical negative news contents supported the proposed concept of "locality." It was revealed that media users manipulate their psychological proximity to news within securing safe distances from negative situations in recent user driven communication environments. Based on the examination, implication of the study for the practice of journalism against confronting challenges was discussed.