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Thesis statement: Due to the fact that online reviews provide useful information regarding specific issues, they have a significant effect on people's opinions in such a way that they influence decision-making, attitude, alter messages, and cause a snowball effect.
Online Comments have the Ability to cause a Snowball Effect.
Snowball effect - research has proven that reading other individual's reviews affect how people publish their comments; thus, causing a snowball effect. In this case, people tend to react towards a specific topic or news depending on the previous comments.
Supporting study - a recent study conducted by Taylor, Aral, and Muchnik (2013) concluded that the first comment shapes the overall tone of a discussion either positively or negatively.
The theme of emotional contagion - online emotional contagion is responsible for the snowball effect. For example, if the first comment in a news article utilizes an insulting tone, subsequent results are more likely to follow the trend. The situation causes the formation of online mobs, where individuals attack each other and critic negatively the news article.
Example of snowball effect - the trend has increased tremendously in such a way that popular magazines such as the Washington Post have pulled down the comment sections in their news posts. On the other hand, the effect can work positively.
Negative Comments can Alter an Article's Intended Message
Impact of negative comments - negative comments can alter an article's intended message and change how people perceive the information.
Supporting study - a research by Cameron and Hong (2018) exposure to fictitious comments proved that those exposed to negative reviews expressed polarized opinions concerning the discussion. In this case, the offensive comments barred individuals from perceiving the primary information on the article. Additionally, negative reviews weaken the persuasiveness of a news article.
Example in the real world - according to Cameron and Hong (2018), online users depend on others to inform them of what they need to comprehend. Therefore, if comments contradict an article's main topic, the situation alters readers' judgment regarding the news content. Notably, negative comments are more powerful than the number of "likes" a commentary receives online.
Comments Affect People's Attitude towards Specific Issues
Impact on people's attitude - comments can change people's attitude towards a given subject.
The theory of adaptive resonance - an individual's prior knowledge on a subject does not affect how they react; instead, the resulting opinion solemnly depends on the exposed comments. Moreover, Cameron and Hong (2018) claim that adaptive dissonance allows online newsreaders with mental inconsistency to change their attitude towards a subject when they read contradicting comments.
Cognitive discrepancies - mental inconsistencies cause discomfort; therefore, to avoid the situation, individuals change their views according to the nature of the comments.
Example in the real world - if people are exposed to comments that either support or refute home birth, those individuals exposed to comments in support of home birth will change their opinion in favour of the topic, while those exposed to refuting comments will reveal dissenting opinions. The situation proves that comments are capable of changing an individual's perception and attitude towards a particular online discussion.
Online Comments Influence People's Decision Making
Influence on people's decision - online comments easily influence people who have less knowledge concerning a topic.
Supporting research - according to Cameron & Hong (2018), study, comments are capable of controlling how people make decisions towards specific problems. For instance, if a fictitious Facebook campaigned is launched with both positive and negative reviews towards a candidate. Positive comments will allow the candidate to gather more support from Facebook users while the negative ones will work otherwise. Additionally, the candidate's comments on both sides will not affect how people cast their votes.
Example in the real world- the above situation proves that when individuals lack prior knowledge towards a subject, they rely on other people's reactions to shape their opinions and decisions. Currently, politicians utilize the phenomenon to gather support using sponsored Facebook pages.
Online Comments build up a Product's Perceived Usefulness.
Product perceived usefulness - in business, organizations allow customers to review their services or issues feedbacks concerning various products. The reviews facilitate the buildup of a product's perceived usefulness.
Comment interpretation - buyers internalize user's reviews to enhance their knowledge concerning their desired products (Taylor et al., 2013). Notably, previous buyers who have experience with the product create the reviews. If the reviews positively influence the new buyers, they decide to purchase the merchandise and vice versa.
Reduction of product uncertainties - online information reduces a consumer's uncertainty towards a product. However, organizations may issue fake reviews to exploit customers; thus the need for government regulations.
Online Comments Affect Individual's Self-Perception and Self-Esteem
Effect of comments on self-esteem - comments on individual's personal information such as photos and posts can affect how they perceive themselves (Taylor et al., 2013). Positive comments from friends and families improve individual's moods and enhance their self-esteem.
The theory of social support - comments from families and friends are a form of social support. Maslow hierarchy of needs reveals that the feeling of belonging motivates an individual and improves their self-esteem. Therefore, simple remarks congratulating an individual's success will have numerous benefits that contribute to their wellbeing.
Hong, S., & Cameron, G. T. (2018). Will comments change your opinion? The persuasion effects of online comments and heuristic cues in crisis communication. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 26(1), 173-182.
Muchnik, L., Aral, S., & Taylor, S. J. (2013). Social influence bias: A randomized experiment. Science, 341(6146), 647-651.
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