Awe Versus Aww: The Effectiveness of Two Kinds of Positive Emotional Stimulation on Stress Reduction for Online Content Moderators

Christine L. Cook, Jie Cai, Donghee Yvette Wohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

When people have the freedom to create and post content on the internet, particularly anonymously, they do not always respect the rules and regulations of the websites on which they post, leaving other unsuspecting users vulnerable to sexism, racism, threats, and other unacceptable content in their daily cyberspace diet. However, content moderators witness the worst of humanity on a daily basis in place of the average netizen. This takes its toll on moderators, causing stress, fatigue, and emotional distress akin to the symptomology of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The goal of the present study was to explore whether adding positive stimuli to breaktimes-images of baby animals or beautiful, aweinspiring landscapes-could help reduce the negative side-effects of being a content moderator. To test this, we had over 300 experienced content moderators read and decide whether 200 fake text-based social media posts were acceptable or not for public consumption. Although we set out to test positive emotional stimulation, however, we actually found that it is the cumulative nature of the negative emotions that likely negates most of the effects of the intervention: the longer the person had practiced content moderation, the stronger their negative experience. Connections to compassion fatigue and how best to spend work breaks as a content moderator are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number277
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Volume6
Issue numberCSCW2
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 11 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications

Keywords

  • compassion fatigue
  • content moderation
  • emotional distress
  • social networking sites
  • stress

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