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Why People Share: The Psychology Behind Social Media Sharing

Social media has taken the world by storm and with it viral campaigns. But what make's us share?

Social media has not only connected the world, it has also organised the internet far more than Google did; now it has been organised and these platforms exist, what keeps us connected and most importantly what makes us share?

For context, as of October 2017, total worldwide population is 7.6 billion, the internet has 3.5 billion users, there are 3.03 billion active social media users, 91% of retail brands use 2 or more social media channels, 81% of all small and medium businesses use some kind of social platform, Internet users have an average of 7.6 social media accounts, Social media users grew by 121 million between Q2 2017 and Q3 2017.

That works out at a new social media user every 15 seconds.

Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp handle 60 billion messages a day. There are 31.25 million Facebook messages, 347,222 tweets, 17,361 LinkedIn profile views, 48,611 Instagram pictures, and 300 hours of YouTube videos uploaded each minute. The internet is full of content that’s constantly being created or shared.

So, as we can see Social media and the internet as a whole is huge in numbers, but why do people love social media? What’s the psychology behind it?

There was a recent study conducted by the New York Times Consumer Insight Group that looked for an answer for us. Researchers concluded that there were five major reasons why people share on social media:


Perhaps this is the most obvious answer, just like, what keeps people hooked to TV, social media has all the right content to entertain us and more. Everyone loves a good dog video, a practical joke or a funny accident that they can laugh at and share with their friends. After all, what is the internet for if not to keep us entertaining and locked in?

Less than half of overall shares are motivated by entertainment or passion.

I know I like to share a funny video and have vested interested to share it with a friend with similar values, so this does explain the tendency for funny YouTube videos to go viral as people want to share the humour with their closest, most of the time tagging several of their nearest and dearest.

Supporting a cause

Supporting a cause is everywhere, we as people feel the need to help the less fortunate than us, well most anyway… It’s almost impossible to go onto social media and not see someone talking about a cause they are passionate about.

The study found that 84% of respondents use social media to share their support for a social cause. Whether it’s fighting against immigration, police brutality or sponsor a dog, social media remains a powerful tool for expression. People not only like to do nice things but also be credit for doing so and thus letting other aware of the good deed. It gives a sense of satisfaction more than just doing the good deed itself knowing that others know and give’s an insight into personality traits and morals.

A perfect example of this would be the Ice Bucket Challenge. Politicians, celebrities, and hundreds of others all participated in this viral challenge which helped raise over £100 million for various ALS organisations

Self Fulfilment

Related to the above point, many people share on social media to feel good about themselves. A simple click of a button can let all your Facebook friends know exactly what issue’s you are seeing, experiencing or trying to help with. For example, how they can best provide relief to hurricanes, earthquakes or even to donate to their local homeless shelter.