Navigating the Digital Terrain of Prosocial Disclosures and Likability

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Publication History

Received: October 1, 2021
August 23, 2022; June 11, 2023
Accepted: October 11, 2023
Published Online in Issue: June 1, 2024 


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When people share their prosocial behavior on social media, they face a dilemma. By making prosocial disclosures, they risk being perceived as self-promoting or even selfish and thus less likable. By staying silent, they fail to spread awareness about prosocial activities they value. Drawing on attribution theory, we study the digital reaction of likes to the self-disclosure of prosocial activities that involve multiple stakeholders to understand the affordances and constraints of social media. Leveraging field data on a social networking site, we found that reporting a higher level of self-effort increases the digital reaction of likes. To our surprise, expressing gratitude for the sponsor’s efforts also increased likes for such self-disclosures. Through lab experiments that emulated this context, we dissected this paradox by separating the positive effect of expressing gratitude and the negative effect of sharing credit with other stakeholders on likes. Further, we underscore the salience of expressing gratitude, even when gratitude was extended to sponsors with bad reputations. Our study contributes to the design of a more humane digital world where individuals share and promote prosocial activities without compromising their likability and offers valuable insights for navigating the evolving landscape of social networking platforms.

Additional Details
Author Xue (Jane) Tan, Lu (Lucy) Yan, and Alfonso J. Pedraza-Martinez
Year 2024
Volume 48
Issue 2
Keywords User-generated content, braggart’s dilemma, likability, prosocial behavior, attribution theory
Page Numbers 613-644
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