The Web Makes Me Feel ….

Increasingly we see hundreds of reports telling us about how many people are using twitter, uploading photos to Flickr, the average number of friends we have on Facebook. But what about the deeper more complex questions about how is the making people feel? Or even discussing if this is an important question to ask? So we decided to ask it!

Over the last few months, I’ve had the fortune to work with some great people in the area of – DK and Mark from MediaSnackers and we’ve been asking just this question as part of a project called The Web Makes Me Feel (TWMMF)

TWMMF is a MediaSnackers project exploring the emotional responses to the web among 13-19 year olds in the UK. CASE Insights collaborated with MediaSnackers to analyse the data and produce a detailed report of insights from the findings.


This project came out of discussion at MediaSnackers about how all the research about and the Web we often see, hear and read most of it is about usage behaviour and profiling and segmenting based on their technology usage and is what we already know.

13-19 year olds are often called digital natives, super-communicators and mediasnackers. We know they are heavy users of mobile phones, Facebook and Bebo, they love downloading music and playing games online and we also know they are not using Twitter or reading newspapers. These insights are no thanks to the recent report by 15 year old Matthew Robson for Morgan Stanley, we’ve actually known this for a while (Oh Hum!!).

But a big question all this research is missing is: How does the Web Make You Feel?

Human beings are powered by , not by reason!

Reason alone cannot make us feel anything and it’s how we feel that motivates our behaviour. Why then do we continue to treat human beings as rational consumers of the web?

Hundreds of research reports, papers and presentations scatter the web profiling and modeling economic and rational motives for web usage. Focused on how easy or useful the web is, or on complex formula and metrics profiling web behaviour, we thought we might be missing a trick.
Formulas can’t deal with human emotion. Formulas have no imagination or empathy. Formulas can’t tell you how the web makes me feel?

In reality, our experiences are shaped by deep and emotions – of joy, fear, love, hope, fantasy, happiness and sometimes even a little magic.  Every person we deal with is an emotional human being and yet we continue to treat them like: Numbers. Targets. Statistics.

When faced with complex or inadequate information we fall back on a hybrid approach in which reason and emotion become intertwined. However when they are in conflict, emotion wins every time. The neurologist Donald Calne puts it brilliantly:

‘The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.’

So How Do Youth Feel?

So coupled with over 1000 postcards, we targeted youth across the UK to tell us in their own words, one word to be exact: The Web Makes Me Feel …. and then in a few more words to explain: Becuase …

Over 431 postcards were returned and analysed, identifying over 143 emotions and over 65 reason why the web made them feel that way.

The top 10 emotions expressed by 13-19 year olds were: Happy. Connected. Good. Excited. Free. Entertained. Bored. Interested. Sociable. Independent. Overall youth found the web made them feel positive, however as they got older, around the ages of 17-19, youth reported significantly more negative emotions.

Yesterday, 15th July 2009 at NESTA in London we launched the website and report. To read more about the insights from the project and how the data was collected and analysed, download the detailed The Web Makes Me Feel Report.

Maybe this will start you thinking more about: How does the web make you feel?


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Carl Morris (8 years ago)

Interesting but I would not agree with the statement “nobody is asking this question”.

Check out danah boyd's research and blog, e.g.

DK (8 years ago)

Was fantastic to work with you on this – many thanks for taking on the report and adding some much needed intellectual insight into this project.

CM – danah has been doing great stuff (even more recently) and I guess the statement relates to a project of this size with the specific focus…

drkellypage (8 years ago)

Carl, thanks for your comment, although I'd say that in fact 'Danah is not asking any specific questions, but exploring the socio-cultural context of youth technology use. She has some greatwork on youth/teen culture, behaviour and identity in social networks, a large portion looked at the diffidence between adult perceptions/attitudes toward youth behaviour/beliefs/emotions and the actual socio-cultural context of that activity. Her focus on social construction of fear through media and ethnographic approach is very well known, the methods by which she listens to a youth voice – many great insights are derived from her work

In this I think we are similar and different – similar in that we too have focused on youth voice, not our words to describe their feelings/emotions. However are different in that we just wanted to focus on emotions/feelings. So we asked youth to use their voice, their words to articulate their feelings/emotions. It's a more focused remit. It's not as sizeable nor deep ethnographic research approach as Danah, however provides us with a snapshot into the language youth use to describe their emotions/feelings and the reasoning for the emotion/feeling expressed.

In that, we do ask a different question, with a very different methodology, but perhaps with a similar objective – to provide more insight and listen more to the youth voice in 'how the web makes them feel'. Perhaps I should have written:

“not enough”


emmanuelleen (8 years ago)

For another interesting emotional investigation of the Web, see Kevin Kelly's Internet Mapping project : . Pour les francophones, voyez….

The good thing there is that the answer is a drawing instead of words -a much rawer transmittor of feelings.

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