The literature on self-disclosure reveals that people benefit from divulging emotionally-laden experiences, be it vocally or through writing. There is however evidence that those who receive the disclosure may also be receiving important benefits from it.
According to emotional broadcaster theory (EBT), the person disclosing traumatic events takes on the role of a news broadcaster whose desire to share major news events is actually motivated by a personal need to relieve their own feelings. Notably, divulging emotionally arousing information allows the broadcaster to gain closure and the listener to obtain valuable information. More specifically, people become more alert to dangers, take greater precautions and adopt more adaptive attitudes and behaviors after listening to others’ traumatic stories.
EBT further proposes that social sharing facilitates the transfer of emotionally arousing information across a wider network of people. Particularly relaying someone else’s traumatic experience could be motivated by the listener’s own experience of secondary traumatization, which could be expressed as nightmares, fatigue, depression, and other symptoms that follow emotional trauma.
Another feature of EBT suggests that the degree of coverage of the traumatic experience is correlated to the original teller’s psychological reaction to the trauma, which implies that the strongest reaction to a disturbing event would yield the most social sharing. Accordingly, results from the current study supports this claim by showing that stories that carry greater emotional impact are more likely to be disseminated across social networks.
Harber, K., & Cohen, D. (2005). The Emotional Broadcaster Theory of Social Sharing. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 24, 382 – 400.