Above the articles of politics, fashion or economy, the articles that are most frequently shared on the Internet have as their central theme some innovation or discovery about technology or science.
One reason that explains this inclination is that there are more Internet users with skills to share in social networks such articles that are implicitly more interested in science and technology (precisely because of this they are skilled consuming and sharing on the internet). But there is another more powerful reason. The awe.
The shock is to be in front of the Grand Canyon of Colorado and feel insignificant or watch a very sophisticated special effects sci-fi movie thanks to which everything trembles at the roar of a dinosaur or the jump into a ship’s hyperspace.
Overwhelming gigantic the frame of reference and causes a sense of transcendence
When we experience awe, when we feel admired and inspired by great feats of the human being, we are inclined to share the sensation. It is something similar to what happens when we have discovered a fascinating movie and we put it on our best friend to feel the same as we do (and we are even giving him glasses to see if it really vibrates at the times we did, and if it does, we feel responsible for it, as if the film had been filmed by us).
To see to what extent this feeling inclines us to share what is discovered with others is real, Jonah Berger and his colleagues carried out an experiment in which articles were presented on a new treatment on AIDS or on a hockey goalie that I play Despite having brain cancer, they were the ones that caused the most shock.
Articles about buying bargains on vacation, however, did not provoke such intense emotion. As Berger himself points out in his Contagious book:
We used statistical analysis to compare the results with the fact that the articles were widely shared. What we intuited was true. Overwhelming stimulates sharing. Overwhelming items were 30 percent more likely to become part of the most shared list.
Sharing interesting articles that cause awe also increases our reputation, a powerful social currency that on the Internet has become as influential as a real currency. For that reason, the overwhelming articles that are most shared are also those that inspire positive rather than negative feelings:
After all, don’t most of us prefer to make others feel happy or positive instead of worried and sad? Likewise, as we saw in the chapter on social currency, whether people share something or not, it often depends on how it makes them look before others. Positive things may be shared more because they reflect positively on the person who shares them.