Research suggests that viewing successful or fortunate others’ social media portrayals may promote a more negative hedonic experience via social comparison tendencies, but this notion has rarely been tested experimentally. Here, we tested the possibility that viewing fortunate and unfortunate social media portrayals (vs. neutral portrayals) may also promote a negative hedonic experience. In Experiment 1, participants indicated their positive and negative affect before and after viewing either fortunate, unfortunate, or mundane (neutral) social media portrayals. Inconsistent with conventional theorizing, only participants who viewed the unfortunate portrayal reported more negative affect balance than participants who viewed the neutral portrayal. Experiment 2 provided conceptually similar results, indicating that participants viewing an unfortunate (vs. fortunate) portrayal indicated more negative affect balance. Although somewhat inconsistent with conventional wisdom, the findings suggest negative hedonic experiences can spread on social media.

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