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Private Flirts, Public Friends: Understanding Romantic Jealousy Responses to an Ambiguous Social Network Site Messageas a ...
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Private Flirts, Public Friends: Understanding Romantic Jealousy Responses to an Ambiguous Social Network Site Message as a Function of Message Access Exclusivity

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Research has yet to identify causes for jealousy reactions on social network sites. An experiment examined how message exclusivity affects jealousy responses to a hypothetical scenario. A total of 191 students were randomly assigned to imagine their emotional and behavioral responses to an ambiguous message given by their partner to a romantic rival in a private Facebook message (high exclusivity) or posted publicly on the rival’s Facebook wall (low exclusivity). Those reading high exclusivity messages reported more negative emotion and were more likely to confront. Threat perception and negative emotion predicted confrontational behavior. There was an indirect effect of exclusivity on threat perception through negative emotion. There was no direct link between exclusivity and threat perception.

Citation: Cohen, E.L., Bowman, N.D., & Borchert, K. (2014). Private flirts, public friends: Understanding romantic jealousy responses to an ambiguous social network site message as a function of message access exclusivity. Computers in Human Behavior, 35, 535-541. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.02.050

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Private Flirts, Public Friends: Understanding Romantic Jealousy Responses to an Ambiguous Social Network Site Message as a Function of Message Access Exclusivity

  1. 1. Private Flirts, Public Friends: Understanding Romantic Jealousy Responses to an Ambiguous Social Network Site Messageas a Function of Message Access Exclusivity Elizabeth L. Cohen Nicholas D. Bowman Katherine Borchert Abstract Background Results Cohen, E.L., Bowman, N.D., & Borchert, K. (2014). Private flirts, public friends: Understanding romantic jealousy responses to an ambiguous social network site message as a function of message access exclusivity. Computers in Human Behavior, 35, 535-541. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.02.050 Published manuscript Available Variable-Centered Approach to Studying Reactions on SNSs: Studies show that some people are more inclined to use Facebook as a surveillance tool and experience romantic jealously in response to what they are exposed to (cf. Bevan, 2013), but research has identified contextual variablesof social network sites that encourage these reactions. Message Access Exclusivity:O’Sullivan (2005) proposed that how publicly or privately accessible social network site messages are, could influence a range of user outcomes. Based on research suggesting that messages sent privately are perceived as more intimate (Bazarova, 2012), we expected that people assigned to consider the private message would interpret the post as being more threatening to their relationship. Experimental Method Participants were randomly assigned to think about their reaction to either an ambiguously flirtatious message posted in a private Facebook message to a romantic rival or posted publicly on the romantic rival’s Facebook wall. They reported on their interpretations of the message, their emotional reactions, and what—if anything, they think they would in response. Experimental Manipulation • Private messages prompted imagined confrontation of the romantic partner • Effect was mediated by negative emotion • Message might’ve prompted a mixed emotional experience prompting respondents to use technological context cues such as message access exclusivity to reduce ambivalence Conclusion Research has yet to identify causes for jealousy reactions on social network sites. An experiment examined how message exclusivity affects jealousy responses to a hypothetical scenario. A total of 191 students were randomly assigned to imagine their emotional and behavioral responses to an ambiguous message given by their partner to a romantic rival in a private Facebook message (high exclusivity) or posted publicly on the rival’s Facebook wall (low exclusivity). Those reading high exclusivity messages reported more negative emotion and were more likely to confront. Threat perception and negative emotion predicted confrontational behavior. There was an indirect effect of exclusivity on threat perception through negative emotion. There was no direct link between exclusivity and threat perception. Imagine that when you sit down at the computer to do an Internet search, you see that your current romantic partner has accidentally left their Facebook account open on the screen. You also notice that your significant other has left the following comment on one of their ex romantic partner’s Facebook wall that reads: “Hey you ” Because the comment is posted [on the ex’s Facebook wall/in the ex’s message inbox], it [is/is not]visible for [everyone/anyone] in their social network to read. * = p< .05, ** = p< .01, *** = p< .001 . Confrontation (0 = nothing, 1 = confront) -.116* R2= .303 Message Exclusivity (0 = private, 1 = public) Threat Perception Negative Emotion .054* -.645** .120*** .447***

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