Social networks and emotions: Depictions of the refugee crisis in images and audio visual content
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Visual content, including videos and images, in news channels, operates as evidence of an event or situation with the audience as the witness. Hence, if a negative event appears, the most common feelings, as per Huxford (2004), are usually anger or rage. Certainly an image like Aylan Kurdi’s depicts drama and human grief, and possibly also the anger and rage of those affected. It is then reasonable to expect that such images will elicit strong responses from the audience. This research aims to study and find out how an image like Aylan Kurdi’s can generate emotional expression on two popular social platforms, Facebook and YouTube. An observational study was conducted, based on an extensive analysis of public comments expressing emotions, collected from Facebook and YouTube. A coding scheme was developed by adopting and revising qualitative coding schemes from previous studies (Kim & Kuljis, 2010; Naaman, Boase and Lai, 2010; Rose, et al., 2015). The analysis was limited to a specific image, of Aylan Kurdi, posted on three news outlets’ (CNN, NBC and CBS) public pages in Facebook and YouTube. Two sets of samples were collected; data from Facebook and from YouTube, using the Facebook and YouTube Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Findings illustrate that men tend to express more their opinion or complaints (representing 18.33% of all comments made by men) while women tend to express more their emotions, such as sadness (18.25% of all comments by women). This suggests that women are more likely to express their emotions on social networks/Facebook than men. Additional findings show that, the majority of YouTube users do not share their emotions through commenting in comparison to Facebook users. Generally speaking, the analysis demonstrates that emotions are expressed on social networks and that an image can provoke negative or positive emotions through commenting. Therefore, a new channel’s choice of platform and the character of its audience appear to be correlated to the expression of emotions. Respectively, further research is needed in order to understand whether such sensitive discussions are susceptible to emotional contagion, and if so, what news channels should do about this.