Jan. 24, 2018

Surprise, anger, sadness: How emotions will dictate ‘social media crowds’ at the Super Bowl

Newswise — Every year, over a hundred million people tune in to watch the Super Bowl and audiences are increasingly using social media to express their emotions before and throughout the game.

Drew Margolin, a professor of communication at Cornell University, has analyzed Twitter activity related to NFL games and found a link between emotions expressed online and the size of the ‘social media crowd’ that comments on the game. His findings have been accepted for publication and the paper “The Emotional Antecedents of Solidarity in Social Media Crowds​” will appear in the journal “New Media and Society.”



Margolin says:

“In our research we find that crowds appear to be self-sustaining. The size of the crowd (quantity of tweets) for a team after one game seems to ‘carry over’ to the size of the crowd before the next game. This holds regardless of changes in the gambling community’s estimations. 

“Surprising outcomes tend to generate more emotional tweets. That is why — should the Eagles lead at this year’s Super Bowl — we would expect their fans to express more positive emotion than Patriots fans would express if the Patriots were winning, and less anxiety than Patriots fans would if they are losing. That is because such an outcome would be surprising.

“But which emotions matters: Anger helps the crowd, sadness hurts it. Particularly after losses, crowds that were angry toward the end of the game are bigger than crowds that were sad. We looked at the emotions expressed in the crowd during the last hour of the game and then looked at how much Twitter activity the crowd showed after the game. Crowds that expressed more anger as their team was heading toward a loss ‘lingered,’ in the sense that the crowd maintained a higher volume of tweet activity, after the game.  

“​In other words, anger seems to have an impact on solidarity, at least at this broad level of inspiring more sustained talk about and attention to the team. By contrast, crowds that expressed more sadness as their team was heading toward a loss ‘dispersed,’ in the sense that the crowd had a lower volume of activity after the game.”


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