“Virtually Unhappy”: Poster Presentation at Digital Consumption Symposium, Cass Business School, City University London

Download/View: poster

Virtually Unhappy: How Probability Neglect in Social Comparison Biases Judgments of Satisfaction with Life on Facebook

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-6-06-49-pmDr. Mudra Mukesh

Marketing, Events and Tourism

University of Greenwich



Dr. Dilney Goncalves

Marketing Department

IE Business School – IE University



Dr. Margarita Mayo

Department of Organizational Behviour

IE Business School-IE University




With the advent of social networking sites, unprecedented social influence has pervaded our daily lives. Across two studies we show that even though people feel more satisfied with their lives when they view recently added friends on Facebook, reading friends’ posts on Facebook makes them feel less satisfied with their lives. This occurs since the more Facebook friends people have, the more ostentatious information they see. Further, because people fail to draw a connection between the number of friends and the amount of ostentatious information they see on Facebook, they experience a drop in their life satisfaction. We also show that this decrease in life satisfaction is mediated by feelings of envy.

The contribution of this article is twofold. First, we show how ignoring the probability of available information used to make social comparisons can impact the outcome of those comparisons. In doing so, this research brings to light the representativeness of the information that engenders social comparison and represents one of the first studies to focus on the nature of informational cues people use to make social comparisons. Secondly, from a practical viewpoint, the context of the study – Facebook – provides an extremely relevant setting in which to examine this relationship. Contrary to conventional wisdom and literature, our research proposes and shows that having a large number of friends on social networking sites may be detrimental to the well-being of users as it can generate envy. With more than 1.13 billion daily active Facebook users (Facebook, 2016), this research has clear implications for the life satisfaction of millions.


The Dark Side of Social Media


8796 photos per second on Snapchat, 487 photos per second uploaded on Instagram , 7141 tweets in one second are sent on Twitter, and Facebook users upload more than 250 mn photos everyday . That’s a lot of numbers. Sure. But they clearly indicate one thing – with a proliferating user base across social media platforms we are more and more inclined to share our lives on the web – selfies, travel plans, romantic updates, professional accomplishments, sarcasm, humour and political views.

We get to be a part of this online community, we get to know what’s going on, we deal with the #FOMO and we share our lives with our friends and acquaintances all the while taking in information about others. While this may work best when it comes to developing connections, staying updated, getting out our views across to others, and building camaraderie, there are some things we have to consider – some of which can be detrimental to us.

Read more here.

Hotels or Hosts: Who will win the battle in the era of the sharing economy?


Airbnb has been valued at over $24 billion earlier this year. Is that surprising, considering the company owns none of the rooms it “offers” on it’s website through the “hosts”? Perhaps a little. But these are the facets of the sharing economy that most of are a familiar with. Uber, Lyft, and TaskRabbit, have been around for a while, and the way they are disrupting their respective industries is old news. Take the acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts by Marriott for $12.2 billion. Was this move an attempt by Marriott to join forces with Starwood to reckon with the force that is airbnb or is that too premature?

Read the full post on Linkedin.

Sentiment, Semantics and Some Snapdeal: A Brief Discussion on the Usefulness of Sentiment Analysis

So I have a new post about Sentiment Analysis. Excerpt below.

“One person’s data is another person’s noise.”
―  K.C. Cole (Author of the Universe and the Teacup)

The last couples of weeks I have been discussing Social Media Monitoring and Listening in my social media lectures. With so much content being created and shared on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Linkedin, brands need to constantly listen for relevant conversations, words, and themes to inform them of the sentiment around their products, brands and the organization itself.The listening has to be calibrated according to the goal of course: if the goal is awareness then one way of measuring it would be to see how many people are using the name of the brand in conversations across social and to what extent is the conversation positive or negative. This is where sentiment analysis or opinion mining would fit in. Usually, considering the number of data points, sentiment analysis is performed by written programs. To perform it manually for 500 mn tweets sent out everyday would be humanly impossible. There is a range of tools available to track sentiment online…

Read the complete post on Linkedin.

Virtual Experiment Update: Week 1 of Socialising on Facebook

It’s been about a week since I decided that I will speak to all of my 700 + Facebook friends. So 102 people and hundreds of minutes of chat later here is what I have to report:

Day 1: Almost all the 30 odd people I messaged replied back. I was not expecting this. Faith in humanity restored.

Day 2: Reeling from too much socializing. Recovering.

Day 3: 20 people messaged. All responded.

Day 4: Break

Day 5: 20 people were messaged. All responded. Reconnected with old friends and people I hadn’t spoken to in years. Felt good that even though I had not spoken to so many people in ages, everyone was so responsive.

Day 6: Got late at work so took a break.

Day 7: Spoke to 25+ people. Everyone except one responded. Reflection: I have spoken to 100 odd people, and there are atleast 600 more to go. Who are these people? Feels like I have spoken to everyone I know.

Response rate of week 1: Out of 102 people I messaged, 100 responded.

Here is to another week, and more socializing. May the introvert in me find the courage to endure!

The Virtual Adventure

I have 726 friends on Facebook. Now while I think this is a lot, what do statistics show? The median number of Facebook friends is 200. Half of the billion + Facebook users have “200 or fewer” friends where as the other half has more.The average number of Facebook friends is about 338 (Source: http://bigthink.com/praxis/do-you-have-too-many-facebook-friends) and 15% users have more than 500 Facebook Friends http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/02/03/6-new-facts-about-facebook/. So I guess now you know where I stand.

Now, its easy to add people on Facebook or stay connected with that guy you met at a party in 2008, but does having so many friends actually mean anything? What about its consequences from a purely social perspective? (Forget envy, fear of missing out or FOMO or any other complicated repercussion). Just how feasible it is to manage a network so large?

Robin Dunbar actually found that people can only cognitively handle about 150 relationships (For the paper click here). Anything greater than this and we falter, and cant operate at the “optimal processing capacity”. A great article in the New Yorker talks about the Dunbar number and having too many friends, you can access it here. This article also says that with the evolving virtual environments perhaps we can better handle an increased number of connections – since we can browse at peoples feed at will and not require intensive contact to be updated about others’ lives. So essentially, I could be sitting in my PJs watching The Walking Dead and be informed of the upcoming nuptials of my friend from high school on Facebook, congratulate her and then move on to chat with another friend about the lack of walkers in the Fear the Walking Dead Pilot. So theoretically it is possible to have tons of friends on Facebook and not be compromised in anyway.

So in order to prove this I have decided to set off on a “virtual adventure” of sorts.

Now what might this entail?

Simple: In the next one month I am going to initiate a conversation with all my 726 Facebook Friends. Now this might be weird, because I believe I may not have spoken to some folks for 10 years or more and it may be for a reason. But in the name of sociological research I shall put my introverted reflexes aside and speak to every single one of my Facebook friends. So if you hear from me on Facebook, you shouldn’t be surprised.

The objective:

-Say more than “Hi, whatsup?”

-Enquire as to the wellbeing and whereabouts of everyone

-The conversation must last 5 minutes on Facebook messenger

Now I assume some people may not bother to reply to my messages. In which case, I am open to suggestions. What should I do? Remove said individuals from my contact list or initiate contact again?

I will be writing about my “virtual adventure” here.

*Watch this space*

“Letting go of the Infamous Logo?”— Malaysian Airlines plan to Rebrand amidst losses may be a good move.

A month back I was planning a trip to Phuket with my family, and my ticket search immediately produced Malaysia Airlines as a top contender in terms of travel time and pricing. Nonetheless, neither my father nor I wanted to travel with Malaysian —after a series of fatal incidents in the last year had raised much doubt about the reliability of the airline.

In March 2014, MH 370 disappeared after taking off from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Later in the year In July, flight MH 317 was shot down by rebels in Ukraine. In December of 2014 Air Asia flight QZ 8501 en route from Indonesia to Singapore went down killing everyone on board.The fact that it is another Malaysia based airline, obviously left many perturbed. As recently as a few days back, a Malaysian Airlines plane made an emergency landing in Melbourne. Is all this a spate of bad luck or a systematic problem?

If I as a consumer was jittery on flying Malaysian, perhaps there were also others like me that would rather pay a price premium and take their business elsewhere. It is widespread knowledge that Malaysian has taken a hit and is incurring losses after these incidents. Coming to this from being in the Top 10 of the world best Airline in 2012 as awarded by Skytrax. How the mighty have fallen, literally and figuratively.

It is thus no surprise that Malaysian has now routed itself for a rehaul —a formation of a new company—a complete restructuring which would involved the genesis of a company that will be fully operational by September. Details of this operation are few and far between, but it may be wise for Malaysian to lose its name and its now infamous, once famous logo.

Some may argue that the process may completely destroy the brand equity of Malaysian Airlines, but one must focus on the consumer perception of the brand equity that remains at the moment, which is shaky at best.

It will be interesting to see in the coming months, to what extent the rebranding is carried out, of course it will remain common knowledge that a new fancy logo and name has come to replace Malaysian Airlines traditional name and symbology, but would it be enough to break the superstition or fear that has come to haunt some fliers?

I think the answer lies in two key areas of thought. Firstly trying to assess why it is some people would prefer to pay more and travel on other airlines rather than Malaysian. Is it superstitious fear or a rational thought process? After all an airline incurring losses may decide to cut corners on upkeep and service and that can be a major deterrent for many fliers. The fact that Malaysian Airlines has not been doing too well, is of course case for concern, and apparently reason enough for some to not chose this once coveted carrier.

Secondly; Malaysian Airlines rebranding effort could be a symbolic activity indicating that it is trying to turn itself around, increase efficiency, and that could potentially appeal to many. Moreover, a new design and name could help work its way around the fear association or conditioning that may have made its way into the mind of some consumers.

Overall, rebranding may be a good decision, even if does tarnish the brand equity. An overhaul of operations, focus on training and service, and swanky new logo could perhaps be the way to go to restore the lost faith of it’s customers.

Nervous fliers like myself will undoubtedly be aghast at the idea of flying Malaysian, where some price sensitive consumers may be tempted to pick up a sweet deal, below the market price. A quick survey on my Facebook page with 35 respondents answering either yes or no to the question “Would you fly Malaysian Airlines if it gives you a “marginally” better deal than other airlines?” showed that 37.1% people would be OK to travel in Malaysian given a better deal, where as 51% would not want to fly Malaysian even given a better deal. Now, what would happen if the price points are the same, as say Thai or Singapore Airways? Would we still have 37% of consumers wanting to fly Malaysian over an airline which has a better safety record?—I am not so sure about that.


Thanks to all my Facebook friends for responding!





Hedonic Escalation

Day and night we are accosted with advertisements from companies, so that we can aspire to a better living, live happier (albeit material), fuller lives. Our friends post information on Facebook and Instagram – their new cars, clothes, nails, girlfriends, babies, vacations, and other swanky possessions. It is no surprise then we love to maximize our pleasure – by buying the latest, fastest car, by wearing fashionable clothes, the right makeup, a branded watch, you probably understand where this is going.


Enter Hedonism. Hedonism comes from the Greek word “Hedone” meaning pleasure. Somewhere around 400-500 century B.C a student of Socrates – Aristippus (Hedonism.org) founded the school of “Cyrenaic hedonism-the ethic of pleasure”. He claimed that a good life comes from maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain but he also promoted an ethical attainment of said pleasure without harming others.

Fast forward to the twentieth century and plenty research has been conducted on Hedonism and its many friends – Cialdini et al (1973, 1976) claiming it to be a form of altruism even, and this may be to reason.


The concept of Hedonic treadmill (Brickman and Campbell 1971) however brought about the belief that sensory adaptation occurs when people have emotional reactions- good or bad and return soon thereafter to neutrality.

Some classic examples from their studies include a finding that people who won the lottery were not happier than non-winners. Another study by Silver (1982) found that “individuals with spinal cord injuries reported strong negative emotions one week after their crippling accident. However, two months later, happiness was their strongest emotion”. So I guess people do adapt over time, no matter how good or bad the situation is.

Discussing these paradigms related to hedonism, it is also necesarry to broach on the issue mentioned earlier – the inundation of our lives with messages of excess and consumption. Once we indulge in something to gratify our senses, perhaps the next time we indulge we need more of the same thing or a thing one notch above the existing.

We can talk about this in the context of shopping for branded items­— a girl buys a Calvin Klein purse for 200 dollars, uses it for a year, and goes back to the store to buy another purse. She thinks to herself that since she has already used the CK brand she should perhaps buy a Michael Kors bag now which is priced at 300 dollars. This continues year on year, since the the same bundle of product ceases to satisfy her. She needs more of the same or in this case, something better than the previous time to experience the same level of pleasure she had achieved on purchasing the CK purse the first time around.

Implications for marketers are clear —upselling their consumers from one time period to the next. But from the consumers point of view—heonism may get real old, real fast. It is in fact like a drug—we need more and more of the same thing to satiate us, feel good, and if we don’t get it, then, all hell breaks lose. Envy, dissatisfaction, resentment. So, remember next time you seek material pleasure, make sure you can afford to buy more of that the next time around.

Cialdini, R. B., Darby, B. L., & Vincent, J. E. (1973). Transgression and altruism: A case for hedonism. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology9(6), 502-516.

Cialdini, R. B., & Kenrick, D. T. (1976). Altruism as hedonism: a social development perspective on the relationship of negative mood state and helping. Journal of personality and social psychology34(5), 907.

Brickman, P., & Campbell, D. T. (1971). Hedonic relativism and planning the good society. Adaptation-level theory, 287-305.

Silver, R. L. (1982). Coping with an undesirable life event: A study of early reactions to physical disability. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.

Picture Source: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheHedonist

When Brands Disappoint: The Digital Perspective

In the digital age of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat and the next new digital platform that is being developed as I write this, it is just careless of marketers to ignore that a tiny faux pas that can leave customers disgruntled. Customers now are not restricted by geographical constraints – meaning they don’t need to go to consumer courts or wait for a big issue to talk about it in such forums. Even smaller foibles on part of companies and organizations that do not get addressed in a timely fashion can cost the company not only it’s customers but could end up causing them a loss in brand equity. And we all know, customer retention is key, losing that one customer can have a domino effect on other customers too – bad news does travel faster than good news particularly in the hyper connected world with millions of tweets going out a minute. Having explicated this, I think consumers need to take stock of the great power that has been bestowed upon them by the internet, and they must use it to their advantage to voice their opinion, to be heard, and to make sure no company or a sub-standard product can dupe a trusting, well-meaning customer.


First off; if customers experience dissatisfaction with the service of an organization, they must by all means write to the customer relations or feedback department of the organization. Even if you don’t want answers, or don’t want compensation, voicing your thoughts that the “ experience of xyz service was not up to the mark even when you tried to explain to the people on the ground, and that bothered you” is a good start. Let the customer service department do the rest.

Often times, companies that think your problem is legit would offer some compensation in form of miles (for airlines), or reward points (for hotels), and that is great. Though many times, the company would just apologize and close the matter, but that is OK too. If you were an organization you would like to know where you are falling short. Brownie points to you for voicing your thoughts and making sure the organization doesn’t do it again to someone else (here’s hoping).

Another way to get attention is to use Twitter to bring the problem to the notice of the organization. Most companies have official Twitter handles, and would respond immediately offering solutions if the situation demands it or just an apology. Again, getting yourself heard is the first step in ensuring that you value the brand/service and companies can be cognizant of the fact that your business is important to them.

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Depending on the nature of the brand/service used portals like yelp, tripadvisor, lonelyplanet and other websites also provide a great recourse for getting the word out. If you did not like a hotel – let them know, and tell other potential customers too. Booking.com, among others offers this facility. Same goes for reviews on amazon.com and any other online retailer.

I have often seen long rants of Facebook with people writing a sordid tale of how they were wronged by a particular organization and how the collective hate of the world must relinquish them to the abyss of hell. However I find these emotion laden allegorical tales serve the opposite purpose. The argument should be factual, rational and should of course detail the emotional consequences suffered but that should not be the theme of the post. All big brands have official Facebook pages and making reasonable factual arguments about a hypothetical service failure would be better than crying emoticon tears over the pain you suffered (Suffer you did, but this isn’t your mom, this is a corporation, speak like them to get the message across).

download (5)Photo Credit: http://trainerannette.wordpress.com/tag/motivation/