Heightened confrontation on social media as a function of psychological distance

Heightened confrontation on social media as a function of psychological distance

Portland, OR, USA


A mean tweet, a snide Facebook post - - with every new report of social media confrontation, it seems that the online social universe we inhabit teems with interpersonal hostility. Previous research has considered how online anonymity increases behavioral disinhibition. Yet little research has examined whether people are more likely to be confrontational on social media, publicly and without anonymity and, if so, the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon. Across five studies (N = 1,124), we examined people?s feelings about engaging in confrontation on social media and in-person. Results showed that people are significantly more likely to confront a stranger on social media (d = 0.43), finding this action significantly less effortful (d = -1.48) and more comfortable (d = 0.60). However, this effect reverses when people consider confronting a close other. Participants found social media confrontation for someone close in social distance to be significantly more effortful (d = 0.95) and less comfortable (d = -1.17) and were less likely to do so (d = -0.96). In summary, this research provides evidence that confrontational on social media is a function of psychological distance.


Susannah Albert-Chandhok, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Ethan Kross, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Susannah Chandhok
Ph.D. Student in Social Psychology

Ph.D. student in social psychology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor studying technology, social connection, and well-being.