Toxic Social Media Comments Grab More Attention Than Positive Ones According to Eye Tracking Study

If you have noticed yourself getting increasingly angry while using social media, you should know that this is by design. Many social media platforms, with Facebook being perhaps the most egregious example, boost inflammatory and toxic rhetoric through their algorithms because of the fact that this is the sort of thing that could potentially end up driving up user engagement. Psychological studies have revealed that negative comments generally get more focus than positive ones, and a recent report confirmed that.

A study published in Computers in Human Behavior which involved eye tracking revealed that comments that had a toxic or negative spin were far more attention grabbing than their positive counterparts. That might help social media platforms get increased levels of engagement, but in spite of the fact that this is the case this trend is doing a lot of harm with all things having been considered and taken into account.

The study involved 169 participants, all of whom were students. They were only given 30 seconds to read through comments threads to better reflect the attention span of the average user. With all of that having been said and now out of the way, it is important to note that this resulted in the negative comments being more memorable and having a longer lasting effect.

The speed at which people scroll through content on their social media timelines may be part of the problem. The human brain is designed to fixate on negative patterns as a defense mechanism. That can negativity stand out more than might have been the case otherwise.

Longer dwell times might not be the answer, though. The longer that students read through comments, the more they started focusing on angry ones as opposed to fearful ones. That seems to suggest that the problem might lie in social media itself. Studying information processing is extremely important given the high quantity of data that people are exposed to each and every day. The findings from this study reveal a truly dire state of affairs, and social media platforms are currently incentivized to maintain this harmful status quo.

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