Hardip Singh Rekhraj & *Sheila Yvonne Jayasainan
This exploratory study endeavours to investigate human emotions as a probable determinant of virality on online social networking sites, specifically during the campaigning period of the 13th Malaysian General Election (GE) (3 April – 4 May 2013). While numerous studies have been dedicated to unfolding the contributing factors of online virality, this research focuses on viral politics which attempts to recognize the ways in which politically-related content, particularly videos, are disseminated and shared through social networks in cyberspace. Departing from the conventional content analysis method which determines the properties of a message that makes it viral, this qualitative study employed the online depth interview method on 31 temporal elites who assisted in achieving this study’s objective of determining human emotions as an inducer of viral political videos. The respondents are known to be the drivers of viral politics – they are well-connected, educated and motivated individuals who play an active role in politics but not necessarily through their involvement in a political party or interest group. The online depth interview was made up of semi-structured questions and data collected were analysed using themes and sub-themes that emerged to discover patterns that support human emotions as a probable (sole) determinant of social transmission and virality on social networking sites. The findings indicated that Malaysian urban social network users actively viewed and engaged with political videos during the pre-GE13 period. In addition, the findings also revealed the tendency of human emotions being the sole determinant of social transmission and virality in cyberspace. Evidently, this research has debunked the myth that negatively-perceived political content triggers greater virality as the respondents indicated otherwise.
Keywords: viral politics, temporal elites, emotional arousal, online social networking, social presence theory, online disinhibition effect