How do you feel? Managing emotional reaction, conveyance, and detachment on Facebook and Instagram

Anson Au*, Matthew Chew

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Studies of social media and its uses have focused on how it shapes behavior but less so with emotion. Overcoming this limitation, this article investigates the role of emotion in understanding and shaping actions online, and how, conversely,
different uses of social media are leveraged to manage and express emotions, focusing on Facebook and Instagram. To this end, this article draws on 24 in-depth interviews with youth users in Hong Kong to excavate practices of emotional labor and management online, which reveal (1) strategies to manage emotional reactions, centering on critical distance; (2) strategies to manage emotional conveyance by manipulating the temporality of the content they produce; and (3) the creation of a digital blasé that consisted of the atmosphere of Facebook and Instagram, sustained by general emotional detachment, the perceived need to detach, and a sense of “watchedness”. Throughout, emotional detachment was the default state that users entered into when using Facebook and Instagram, as an anticipatory reaction to the emotional exhaustion imposed by imagined content and into which they inevitably returned.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-137
Number of pages11
JournalBulletin of Science, Technology and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017

User-Defined Keywords

  • China
  • digital culture
  • emotion
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • social media
  • social networking sites


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