Why Do People Share? Unraveling the Emotion Behind Sharing
Sharing is a fundamental part of the human experience.
From the early days of our existence, sharing stories around campfires to the modern age of reposting memes on social media, the urge to share has remained consistent.
But why do we do it?
When we look beyond the confines of the office, where sharing information is typically a practical necessity, we find that outside this realm, sharing is driven by profound emotional motives. In a study titled 'Sharing' by Russell Bek published in The Journal of Consumer Research, the act of sharing is described as a "fundamental consumer behavior" that is distinct from commodity exchange and gift giving (Bek, 2010).
Sharing, as Bek highlights, has ancient roots and plays a pivotal role in a range of consumption-related issues, from household resources to intellectual property rights.
Adding to the depth of our understanding, a study by Chen, Drennan, & Andrews in the Journal of Marketing Management in 2012 introduces the concept of "experience sharing."
They conceptualize this as a value creation effort specifically for the benefit of others. Their study emphasizes the importance of 'value-in-experience' as an effort-based value creation and recognizes 'value initiators' as actors who perform this experience sharing (Chen et al., 2012). Their work offers a fresh perspective, suggesting that sharing is not just about conveying information but also about crafting and sharing experiences that bring value to others.
Let's dive into some of the emotional reasons why people share:
We Want to Influence: The desire to influence others is deep-rooted in our psyche. By sharing our opinions, beliefs, and values, we hope to sway others to see the world as we do. In an age of digital activism, where 'likes' and 'shares' translate to validation, influencing others is not just a personal desire but a powerful tool to bring about change.
We Want to Entertain: Humans are natural storytellers. For millennia, we have found joy in entertaining our peers with tales of our exploits or sharing humorous anecdotes. With the rise of social media platforms, this intrinsic need to entertain has found a new outlet. Memes, GIFs, and short videos provide a quick and efficient way for us to bring a smile to someone's face or offer them a brief escape from their day-to-day routine. By sharing such content, we not only entertain but also strengthen our social bonds.
We Want to Impress: The need for social validation is a powerful driver for many of our actions. When we share our achievements, whether it's a personal milestone like running a marathon or a professional accomplishment like receiving a promotion, we're not just updating our peers. We're subtly seeking their admiration and validation. This isn't necessarily born out of vanity but rather a desire to be seen, acknowledged, and valued within our social circles.
We Want to Ask for Help: Sharing isn't always about projecting outward; sometimes, it's a call for support. Whether we're facing a personal challenge or are curious about a topic, sharing allows us to tap into the collective wisdom and experience of our network. By opening up and showing vulnerability, we invite others to offer their insights, advice, or simply lend a listening ear. This form of sharing underscores the fundamental human need for connection and support.
We Want to Connect: At our core, we all have an intrinsic desire to be seen in a positive light by our peers. Sharing funny anecdotes, clever observations, or showcasing our talents allows us to put our best foot forward. It's a way to define our identity and present the facets of our personality that we're most proud of. It's not just about seeking validation but creating a narrative of who we are and how we want the world to perceive us.
Sharing is far more than a mere exchange of information. It's an age-old behavior deeply rooted in our emotions and social constructs, as emphasized by both Bek's research (2010) and the insights from Chen et al.'s exploration of experience sharing (2012). Understanding the underlying emotional triggers of why we share can help us foster deeper and more meaningful connections in an ever-evolving digital age.
Bek, R. (2010). Sharing. The Journal of Consumer Research, 36(5).
Chen, T., Drennan, J., & Andrews, L. (2012). Experience sharing. Journal of Marketing Management, 28.
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