Emotions and Digital Well-Being: The Rationalistic Bias of Social Media Design in Online Deliberations

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeChapterScientificpeer-review


In this chapter we argue that emotions are mediated in an incomplete way in online social media because of the heavy reliance on textual messages which fosters a rationalistic bias and an inclination towards less nuanced emotional expressions. This incompleteness can happen either by obscuring emotions, showing less than the original intensity, misinterpreting emotions, or eliciting emotions without feedback and context. Online interactions and deliberations tend to contribute rather than overcome stalemates and informational bubbles, partially due to prevalence of anti-social emotions. It is tempting to see emotions as being the cause of the problem of online verbal aggression and bullying. However, we argue that social media are actually designed in a predominantly rationalistic way, because of the reliance on text-based communication, thereby filtering out social emotions and leaving space for easily expressed antisocial emotions. Based on research on emotions that sees these as key ingredients to moral interaction and deliberation, as well as on research on text-based versus non-verbal communication, we propose a richer understanding of emotions, requiring different designs of online deliberation platforms. We propose that such designs should move from text-centred designs and should find ways to incorporate the complete expression of the full range of human emotions so that these can play a constructive role in online deliberations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEthics of Digital Well-Being
Subtitle of host publicationA Multidisciplinary Approach
EditorsBurr Christopher, Floridi Luciano
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-50585-1
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-50584-4
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NamePhilosophical Studies Series
ISSN (Print)0921-8599
ISSN (Electronic)2542-8349


  • Deliberation platforms
  • Online deliberation
  • Online emotions
  • Social media
  • Text communication
  • Well-being


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