Emotional States of Internet Users: East vs. West

A study in the European Journal of Marketing categorized segments of consumers based on their emotional states of being. Some people experience more emotion in the real world, while others are equally emotional online as offline.  The study identified 6 groups of internet users:

  • Positive online affectivists feel anxiety and stress in offline situations in the real world, but exhibit happiness, confidence and imagination online.
  • Offline affectivists experience the most emotionally intense feelings offline in the real world.  Online they feel anonymous. 
  • On/Offline negative affectivists feel anxious and stressed both online and offline and experience higher levels of negative emotions in general. They feel anonymous online.
  • Online affectivists have intense emotional experiences online and are happiest operating on the internet.
  • Indistinguishable affectivists have neutral feelings about both the online and offline worlds.
  • Negative offline affectivists:  Feel anxious and stressed offline, but brave and powerful online.

The study is interesting in that some people are more comfortable in their online selves than in the real world and prefer to interact with others mediated by the internet.  They may be better targets for social media marketing efforts.

The study also examined people around the world and the clusters in which they fell.  Specifically, North Americans were more likely to be offline affectivists, while the Chinese respondents were more often positive online affectivists.  East Asians were heavily represented in the online affectivist category.  Offline affectivists and negative offline affectivists were found to be more female. 

An important finding for marketers is that those who experience positive online emotions are more likely to support brands’ online activities. 


Title: A typology of internet users based on comparative affective states: evidence from eight countries
by  Christodoulides, George; Michaelidou, Nina; Nikoletta Theofania Siamagka

European Journal of Marketing, 47, 2013


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